Tragic Banda Case: Dalit woman's death in a flour mill raises questions on justice in UP

Tragic Banda Case: Following a delay in the arrest, protests ensued on November 16, prompting the police to arrest Rajkumar. However, charges were altered, deviating from the initial charges of gang rape.

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Courtesy: ANI

Tragic Banda Case: A Dalit woman's demise under mysterious circumstances in Banda district, Uttar Pradesh, has taken a dark turn, with allegations of gang rape and murder emerging from her grieving family. The unfolding tragedy is mired in conflicting narratives, protests, and legal complexities.

The incident transpired in Pataura village, where around 200 Dalit families reside, located 18 kilometres from the district headquarters. The Dalit community, once ostracised, settled in this village, working on lands owned by the Brahmin community. The victim, Asha, and her husband Suraj, both belonging to the leatherworking community, were employed as labourers in the fields. They were given a temporary job plastering walls at a flour mill.

Tragic Events on October 29

According to The Hindu's report, Asha and Suraj went to work at the mill on the morning of October 29. At lunchtime, they returned home, and Asha was allegedly called back to complete the work by the mill owner, Bauwa Shukla. Tragically, Asha's mutilated body was discovered later that day inside the mill, leading to a police investigation.

Police's Initial Assessment

The police initially considered it an accidental death, citing Asha's body getting trapped between the grinding machine and the belt. The preliminary investigation, as per Superintendent of Police Ankur Aggarwal, indicated no injury to the woman's private parts.

Family's Allegations and FIR

Asha's family, however, accused the alleged murderers of gang rape and lodged a complaint the same day. They claimed to have heard screams and seen three individuals leaving the mill. An FIR was registered against three suspects, including Rajkumar, the mill owner, under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 376 (rape).

Changing Charges and Arrest

Following a delay in the arrest, protests ensued on November 16, prompting the police to arrest Rajkumar. However, charges were altered to sections 304A, 287, and 201 of the IPC and section 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Act, deviating from the initial charges of gang rape.

NGOs' Intervention and Legal Complexity

NGOs, including the Dalit Dignity and Justice Center, investigated the matter. A lawyer associated with the NGO, Rashmi Verma, raised concerns about the changes in charges, terming it an attempt to dilute the severity of the case.

Postmortem Report Discrepancies

The postmortem report indicated shock and bleeding due to injuries, but the family alleged discrepancies, such as the absence of a hospital stamp. The police defended the report, emphasising proper documentation.

Lingering Questions and Grieving Family

As the legal intricacies unfold, Asha's family remains dissatisfied, questioning their access to justice. The tragic incident has left a scar on the daughter's psyche, with fears of a potential return of the perpetrators.

The case continues to raise critical questions about the administration of justice, the handling of evidence, and the protection of vulnerable communities, demanding a thorough and unbiased investigation.