Sustained campaign against feudal violence in Ballia, UP

On the intervening night of 19-20 August 2014, a cloth trader Chandrashekhar Verma was brutally killed by dominant forces in Pihraharpur village falling under Nagra thana in Ballia. After the killing, the thousands of people who gathered refused to hand over the dead body to the police until they were given an assurance that immediate action would be taken against the guilty. However, despite the assurance, the police only registered an FIR against ‘unknown’ persons. Though the BJP MP Ravindra Kushwaha as well as the sitting MLA from the Samajwadi Party and BSP leaders met the police after the murder, none of them demanded action against the culprits.
On 2 September 2014, a meeting was organized in the victim’s village at the initiative of CPI-ML, which was attended by more than 500 people. Through the meeting, the administration was given a time limit of 13 days to act against the culprits, failing which CP-ML announced that it would launch an agitation. In spite of the victim’s wife Tara Devi giving the name of one person, the police did not think it fit to interrogate that person as he has close ties with leaders in the ruling SP government. When no action was taken, CPI-ML under the leadership of State committee member and Akhil Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Sabha national secretary Com. Shriram Chowdhury, along with the deceased’s wife Tara Devi, started an indefinite dharna in Belthara tehsil on September 15, in which over 600 people participated. The dharna continued without break and the number of people participating increased. On 19 September a 5-member delegation of the CPI-ML under the leadership of Party district secretary submitted a memorandum at the SP’s office demanding that action be taken against the killers of Chandrashekhar Verma, and cognizance be taken of the ongoing agitation in Belthara tehsil. Seeing the wide reach of the agitation, BSP leader Swamy Prasad Maurya was forced to take cognisance of the protest and subsequently tried to meet the victim’s relatives. On the 6th day of the indefinite protest, 2000 people participated in the dharna, including a large number of women. Under pressure from the agitation, COSOG (crime branch) in charge Anil Singh came to the spot and assured the agitators that within 15 days action would be taken and the culprits would be sent to jail. After this assurance the agitation was put on hold. Though the BSP has been trying to get some political mileage from this incident, it has become clear that there is no substantial difference between the BSP and SP when it comes to protecting killers. Meanwhile, as the accused is from the Muslim community, the BJP has been trying to communalise the matter but has failed in doing so. In the days to come, CPI-ML will be carrying forward this movement demanding justice for Chandrashekhar Verma.