Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yadavendra Pratap Singh has been accused of harassing and brutally assaulting Dalit reporter Santosh Kumar, breaking his legs and threatening the journalist and his family with murder. Santosh works with Bahujan India 24 News, a Hindi news channel led by reporters of oppressed castes. He is the bureau chief for Jaunpur district, in Uttar Pradesh. Santosh said that he has been facing casteist attacks and threats since March 2021. The BJP leader is from the dominant Thakur caste, and has targeted Santosh and his family as they are Dalit, the reporter said. Santosh had also published news reports regarding the Thakurs’ harassment and abuse of Dalits in the village. Singh is the head of the BJP’s Maharajganj division in Jaunpur district.
Though the police registered a first information report against Thakur in mid July, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code as well as the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of) Atrocities Act, no action has been taken on it yet. Over the past few months, Santosh, his wife Reshma, and other members of the Dalit community in the area, have written numerous letters to local police and administrative heads, detailing the casteist violence they are facing and asking for support and help. Since 2o August, Santosh and his family have been sitting in protest outside the district collectorate in Jaunpur, demanding that the police arrest Singh and hold him liable for his crimes.
By Santosh’s account, which is detailed in the FIR, Singh began targeting the reporter and his family in late March, just ahead of the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh. The seat for Santosh’s village, Sawansa, is reserved for women. Reshma had stood in the election. Singh’s wife, Anamika, joined the electoral fray as well. Apparently upset that a Dalit woman had challenged his wife, Singh and his men threatened Reshma and Santosh, demanding that she withdraw her nomination. “They came and threatened my wife, and told me that if we fight the election, they will have us killed,” Santosh said. “We were rearing a goat, but he and his men took it away.”
On 26 March, Reshma wrote a complaint to the superintendent of police in Jaunpur, recounting the threats and abuse she faced. Singh and his men “used disgusting abuses and casteist terms,” she wrote. The Thakur men threatened to kill her for daring to fight the election and told her, “Your job is only to do manual labour.” Santosh said that even though the family called the police to report the harassment, no complaint was registered against Singh. Reshma’s letter alleged that Singh had used his position as a BJP leader to prevent the police from taking action. “For the safety of my life and property, my entire family wrote a complaint but nothing was done,” Santosh said. By law, the police is required to register any complaints of caste-based violence or abuse.
Reshma did not withdraw her nomination. Elections were held on 15 April, and Singh’s wife won the polls. Santosh alleged that Singh had rigged the votes to prevent Reshma from winning. He further alleged that in the weeks that followed, the Thakurs began harassing and assaulting the Dalits in the village. “People from our community, all those who voted for and supported us, were harassed every other day,” Santosh said.