Overwhelming response from policemen and common people after successful implementation of ‘Zero Budget Promotion Policy’ for the stagnant constabulary of the state. They took me on their shoulders when I entered the city, Muzaffarnagar.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Single men in Muzaffarnagar are scared their families might bump them off to grab their land.
Death surprised Bhagwana Singh when he went early one morning in April to water his fields. The 82 year old farmer of Babri in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district was shot in the head. The police were at a loss to establish the motive behind the crime. Bhagwana, who owned 18 bighas(12 acres) of land, was not rich. Nor did he have any known enemy.
The police, however, noticed that his relatives were in a hurry tocreamate him without resistring a case or asking for a post-mortem examination. It lead them to suspect that the old bachelor was the victim of randwa pratha-the practice of killing unmarried brothers to prevent fragmentation of land. (Randwa in local lingo means a widow or widower, but the term includes bachelors staying with relatives.) The practice is prevalent in Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat district of western Uttar Pradesh. Ninety people have been charge-sheeted in the last five-years for randwa killings.
The eldest of Kanak Singh's five sons, Bhagwana was staying with his brother Gaje Singh. The needle of suspicion is pointing toward Gaje Singh though the prime accused in the case are some unidentified persons. Investigations are still on.
Jagmeher Singh of the same district was shot in sleep in April. In this case, too, the police suspect that his relatives wanted to hrab nine acres he owned.
About 40 such killings are reported every year, but the police claim the actual figures are three times that. "In most cases complents are not lodged with the police and relatives try to hush up the matter," said Navneet Sikera, senior superintendent of police in Muzaffarnagar, who introduced a randwa register two years ago to check the crime. Every police station in Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat maintains a register of unmarried males and childless couples living with their relatives. According to Sikera, 7,000 randwa have been identified in Muzaffarnagar. "But there are 20,000 in the district who are in the risk category."
Ilam singh, who as allegedly harassed by his relatives, hails Sikera's efforts. "Once the police came to my village and my name was registered," he said,"my relatives started behaving nicely."
"Why would I kill my brother and make my life miserable. he has just four bighas of land whereas I have 16 bighas," said his brother Nain singh. "With the increase in education and modern lifestyle the practice does not exist any more."
The problem is not education -literacy is as high as 61 percent among Jats in the affluent sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh- but the fragmentation of agricultural land. "Most killings are for land. The unmarried person is quietly eliminated and his share of land taken by his relatives. Nobody bothers much about his murder," said Sub-Inspector R.P.Singh, who has been looking after randwa cases.
About 80 percent of 35 lakh people in Muzaffarnagar and 12 lakh in Baghpat districts are engaged in agriculture. The 25 percent increase in population since the last decade has put extra pressure on the land. Besides, employment opportunities are limited. There are no industries worth mention in these two districts.
Mahavir singh Rathi, Jat Mahasabha leader, who has worked more than 40 years in rural pockets of the Jatland, said shortage of employment and arable land was the root cause of the problem. "Land is very important in rural pockets of this region. To grab it people do not hesitate to adopt foul means," said Rathi.
Some people like Mange Singh, though, feel that the cases are filed to defame the Jat community. "Nothing of this sort has happened in our family. You ask my brother Balram how we look after him affectionately," he said. "He has been staying with us for long and has never felt any threat." Balram, however, welcomes the police initiative. He said he felt "safe ever since the police started inquiring about our well-being."
But more than the protective arm of the police, greater employment opportunities can help reduce the killings of bachelors in the region. Besides, bachelors must make their will and submit a copy to the police station, said Om Dutt, a medical shop owner.
Sikera has asked families of randwas for affidavits authorising the government to claim the property of unmarried males who die intestate. He also holds a meeting of old men every month to know their problems.
But greed is ingenious. In some cases, the police say, old men are given slow acting poison that makes deaths look less suspicious. In other cases, relatives take them on a pilgrimage and return alone.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Not just another cop!
Could an insult from a policeman ever ‘inspire ‘ you to throw away your ambitions and join the police forces to win back once lost dignity? Well for Navneet Sikera, it surely did. Fourteen years back and straight out of IIT, Navneet was excitedly hunting for his dream job as a software engineer when an incident that occurred changed the course of his career altogether.
“We had gone to police stations seeking help since my father had been getting threat calls; but the way police insulted my father left an inedible impact on my mind. Why should a dignified man be abused at the hands of an irresponsible policeman? That very day I decided to stand up to my father’s honour and things were never the same.
Indeed they weren’t. For Sekera sat for civil services exam same year and was selected the following year. Two years thence he stood tall as ASP of
It has been 10 years now that Sekera has proudly been rendering his duties towards a profession he never intended to venture into. But the experience has been truly exhilarating, he says.
“It’s a lovely profession, far more satisfying than any other. In these 10 years, I have become a much softer person than what I was. Having associated myself with people from all strata, I have come to understand their pains and predicaments in a much emphathetic manner.”
People love me. It’s the criminals who are wary of my ways. “I ‘m no encounter king, I only believe in fulfilling my duties to the level of perfection.”
Extremely emotional, he is a man rich in values instilled in him by his father, and one with grit that one could only wish for.
As he elaborates on the struggle entailed to play a cop, he clearly loses no opportunity to vindicate the police department of the blame it has suffered to date. “The number of people working for police is extremely low and we aren’t granted any leave. We put our blood and sweat more than any other but fall back when it comes to infrastructure,” laments this Scorpio.
Looking back at those years when he had just stepped into the profession with a mission of initiating a revolution, how much of it has really been achieved? “Depends on the officer. It’s a wonderful profession provided one does it honestly and with righteous intentions. However the position is misused at times, but then we are people who belong to this society and thus behave in a certain way typical of society,” he justifies.
PROTECTOR, WHO INDEED IS A PROTECTOR
The SSP of Muzaffarnagar took innovative initiatives to stop the killing of aged bachelors, which were taking place due to the faulty system. Now the figures of the killings due to property have come down.
For about one and a half decades back the senior officers of police didn’t know about the strange old bachelor system, which was a tradition in U.P west. This faulty system has its great contribution behind the killing of these aged people in this area. The officials tried to control this but they were not very successful their efforts. But now the senior police officer of Muzzafarnagar Mr. Navneet Sikera has taken certain steps to control the killing of these old age bachelors and his efforts have started bearing fruits. Even though, the police stations of U.P west have a register which maintains the list of these old aged bachelors but now the police officers have been given strict instructions of being vigilant about it. Sikera says “Till now we have identified 6,000 aged bachelors and we are making their profiles. And the number of these old aged bachelors can increase to 20,000”. The police officers are going to each and every village in the search of these old aged bachelors, and making efforts to protect their lives. The major aspect of his plan is that a written agreement should be signed by the old aged bachelor and his family member stating that if he is killed; his property will be taken up by the government. Due to this unique plan, the figures denoting the killing of these aged bachelors have come down by more than half. To keep the relatives of such aged bachelors under pressure, the SSP himself took part in a Panchayat in which he ensured safety to these old aged bachelors.
The safety measures taken up by the administration has enlightened these aged bachelors. Sikera says that “Even when these aged bachelors face ordinary threats, they give us a call or they register a complain at the station”. Hence, 45 year old Jagpal ran away from his village Begripur and took a refuge at Sikera’s office. 48 year old Yogendra Kumar, who belongs to Begrajpur, has 10 acres of land registered as his property. He says that “Both my brothers are threatening me and so i have come and taken a refuge at the police station”.
In the U.P west, in the Jat community this tradition of the old bachelor system is quite popular. Although in Hindi Randuwa means a male widow, but in the local language of U.P west this word refers to a person who chose did not marry in order to stop the division of the family property. He lives as a member with one of his brother’s family and gives his share of property to the brother he lives with. But if he wants to leave his family and transfer his share of property to someone else, then it might cost him his life. The senior police officer of Muzzafarnagar K.P Singh says that in U.P west, more than 60% of the murders take place due to property conflicts. Sikera says that “The culture of bachelor system falls victim to greedy people. Every year around 10-12 bachelors are murdered in every police circles”.
For example, the family of 4 brothers of Bhaurikala district of Muzzafarnagar: Rajbir Singh, Jagmeher Singh, Chob Singh and Randhir Singh. First two brothers Rajbir and Jagmeher were unmarried, among them Rajbir Singh lived with his brother Randhir Singh but few years back he was killed under mysterious circumstances and his 12 acres of land was registered to Randhir Singh. After this Jagmeher Singh who was living with Chob Singh, left him and started living with Randhir Singh, and Randhir Singh became the owner of 36 acres of land. After this the infuriated sons of Chob Singh murdered Randhir Singh. To protect the life of Jagmeher Singh from Chob Singh, the police provided him with two security guards. During this, Jagmeher Singh transferred his property to the children of Randhir Singh. This enraged Chob Singh’s family more than anything and Chob Singh’s daughter arranged the weapons and got Jagmeher Singh killed in front of the Police guards.
Anyway, due to the efforts of Mr. Sikera the rate of the killing of these old aged bachelors has come down. The vice president Bhairav Singh Shekhawat praised Mr. Sikera for this policy. It is but obvious that due to the honest effort of one able police officer the society can change considerably.
The Panchayat (Local Jury) that restored the honour
With the initiative of one police officer, hundreds of historysheeters who were suffering for long got relief
Yasin khan, aged 70, a farmer from Makhyali
There are many aged historysheeters like Yasin, who have not committed any crime for decades and now they can live their lives peacefully. They were bestowed with this relief in May 2004 by Mr. Navneet Sikera (S.S.P), who was the Senior Police Officer of Muzzafarnagar, organised a Panchayat which dealt with the cause of the historysheeters. Mr Sikera, who is known for innovation and improvement of the police organisation, made an effort to remove the blemish from the lives of these historysheeters. Sikera says that “I am shocked to see aged people of 70-75 years, who are ill and handicapped and still are accused to be notorious ‘tormentors’ and historysheeters, specially when they have been proved innocent in the court”. Not only this, the police have filed cases of people involved in pick pocketing and such petty crimes, under the aegis of historysheeters. In this district, the police have identified 1,752 people under the category of historysheeters.
Muzzafarnagar, known as the crime capital of U.P west, is infamous for a long time for crimes such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, murder and robbery. Apart from this, Mahendra Singh Tikait’s Indian Farmers Association, has its head office at Muzzafarnagar. Sometimes the local farmers protested against the police organisation, violating the order of the Police, and during this protest, they captured several officers, and at times murdered them. All the attempts to keep the Tikait and its followers under control failed due to this protest miserably. But Sikera adopted a plan which was very innovative and helpful and which provided relief to the state police. The reason for such violent protests being the blemish of being a historysheeter was a matter of shame and dishonour for them. For example, Ishwar Singh of Penchkala was accused of booth capturing and other such anti-state activities, twenty years ago in Muzzafarnagar. Ishwar says “I had to face humiliation for several years, for being involved in this criminal case. When I went when to meet Mr. Dharmvir Tyagi, the then Member of Parliament, for help, he simple refused to recognise me”, whereas Ishwar was caught booth capturing for Tyagi himself. Now he says that “The closure of history sheet by S.S.P Sikera, has given me a new lease of life.”
Under the jurisdiction of Purkaji police circle, when Bunda, aged 75 who is partially blind and deaf, from Tughlaqpur village, was released from the charge of being a historysheeter, fell at the feet of Mr. Sikera with gratitude. For the past 45 years, he did not commit any crime, but still he was recorded as a notorious tormenter in the police registers of history sheeters, which was finally by closed Mr Sikera.
In the first session of Panchayat, in Shyamli Police Station, such scenes were common. Nakli Singh expressed his happiness when the blemish of being a historysheeter was removed from his life, and he said that “Even after giving up weapons 30 years ago, I still had to report to police station regularly. Now I am spared of that humiliation, I am highly grateful to S.S.P sahib”. The Panchayat which was organised on the 5th and 8th of May announced the closure of the history sheets of 215 people. Mr. Sikera is planning to organise the third Panchayat very soon.
Mr Sikera is known as a versatile police officer, with new innovative ideas. Without increasing the economic burden on the government, he suggested a policy appointing a number of constables, which was accepted by the Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who decided to implement this policy. The surveillance of the functioning of the activities of the police through computers was also approved by the state government.
The policy of improving the status of the old criminals caused a stir in the police department. In
Though only the lucky ones have got relief from this humiliation. In the police records, still there are many people who have been registered as historysheeters.
CONVERSATION WITH NAVNEET SIKERA
“This is the repentance of mistakes”
An extract from the conversation of Mr. Navneet Sikera, S.S.P Muzzafarnagar, with the Panchayat of Historysheeters
Qs. What made you think about the history sheeters?
Ans. I was shocked to see the names of aged, helpless people in the register of historysheeters. Many of them have not been involved with crime, since years. But due to political pressures, their historysheets were not closed by the Police. I went through their records, and decided to close their historysheets.
Qs. Is it justified to organise Panchayat for the closure of historysheets?
Ans. It is our responsibility to change the criminals and to bring them into the mainstream society is our duty and responsibility. The police committed this mistake earlier, but now I am rectifying the mistake by closing the historysheets.
Qs. On what basis was the list of these historysheeters made?
Ans. I decided that on four parameters. Firstly, the historysheeter who was not involved in any criminal activity for the past 15 years, secondly who did not leave his native town, thirdly who regularly reported at the police station and lastly who was leading a peaceful life. Then the emancipation of such a historysheeter was possible.