What many of you may not know or realise is that the people I report about, call me often. Most atrocity cases I cover involve poor villagers. They call to inform me of a development in the police case or, simply, to share their fears.
At times, they also call me to invite me to a wedding in their family. I never make any false promises that I would come. Once, I gave some shagun through online bank transfer to such a family. It felt very nice.
These days, a person who calls me routinely is Birju, who is elder brother of deceased Loten Nishad. Loten was just 25. He was killed by some people from his own village after a man from his Nishad community made a comment that Tablighi Jamaat was responsible for the spread of Coronavirus in India. Loten was married.
Whenever Birju calls, his opening line is – “I was just sitting and thought of asking about your well-being”. He is a very sweet person to talk to. Poor guy, he is the eldest in the large family and thus responsible for everything.
On 14 May, he called around 8 pm in a bit of panic. He was feeling scared for his life because a bunch of policemen who have been constantly guarding his house since the murder, were not there anymore. They left the village around 5 pm citing work, but had not returned, he said.
In most of the calls by Birju so far, he has expressed fear for his and his family’s lives to me. Many of the 10-11 men accused for his brother’s murder are history-sheeters. Four days ago, Birju shared a printout with me, which he said was criminal record of one of the accused. It showed a total of 27 FIRs filed against that man. (I have not reported about it yet as the in-charge of Kareli police station has not confirmed its authenticity to me. He said he needs time).
Birju was frightened. He was speaking faster than usual but in a lower voice: It had been three hours and there was no sight of the cops. Everyone in the village knew by now that his house was unguarded. Why had the cops disappeared? Was it a conspiracy hatched by the accused’s kin? Was police hand-in-glove?
I told him wait, let me call up the police station. He said it’s of no use as SHO isn’t answering his calls either. It’s become dark, he said.
I advised him to stay up all night and assured him I would keep trying the police as well. It was clear that he did not want to disconnect the call. I told him to reach out to his immediate neighbours as well. Maybe they could also stay up?
He did not say anything. We continued to be on the line. Just then, there was a spark in his voice. The cops had arrived. Thank god.
I was curious to know what had happened. I requested him to go talk to cops while I would be on the line.
Birju returned in a minute. Four members of a family had been murdered in the area (this case). The cops had been temporarily sent there. They were now back.