Dalit RTI (Right to Information) activist Kedar Singh Jindan, 43, was murdered on 7 September in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. A ‘one-man army,’ Jindan, who was also a practising advocate at the Shimla High Court, worked for the rights of Scheduled Castes and Tribes as well as for those who brought their cases of inter-caste marriages to him. He had also contested last year’s Assembly elections from Shillai on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket. He is survived by his wife, Hemalata and two daughters, Vanshika and Dikshika, who study in Standard X and VII, respectively. Kedar and Hemalata met when she was 22 years old and studying in the first year of her B.A course. They had a love marriage—Hemalata belonged to an upper caste from the town of Rohru village in Himachal Pradesh, and Jindan was a Dalit from Paab in Shillai.
Jindan, who belonged to the Koli community, had held a press conference a few months before he was killed in Shimla, wherein, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, he had claimed that Below Poverty Line (BPL) certificates were being tampered with in his native place of Shillai. He said certificates were being issued to people belonging to the upper castes, who not only have heavy incomes but also lead a well-to-do life adorned with houses, multiple vehicles, etc.
He alleged that Jai Prakash, the up-pradhan of Bakrash panchayat and a Rajput, had tampered with the BPL list and got a few of his family members’ names on it, thereby making them eligible to reap the benefits that should have rightfully gone to someone who was from SC/ST background. Following this, some members of Jai Prakash’s family lost their BPL privileges—something that they held Jindan solely responsible for. Also, to have a Dalit show you up in this manner, wasn’t something that sat well with the rest of the Rajputs in Bakras village.
In the June press conference, Jindan had also stated that his life was in danger. He had lodged a complaint with the NHRC for an incident dating June 12, 2017. The “place of the incident” was “Shila area” and “Simla” and the case was “disposed with directions” on August 23 2017, stating that “the complaint be transmitted to the concerned authority for such action as deemed appropriate. The authority concerned is directed to take appropriate action within 8 weeks and to inform the complainant of the action taken in the matter.”
Jindan’s wife said he was attacked last December as well.
“He was going to Shillai by bus and was dragged out of the front seat, where he was sitting when the bus reached Sataun village (in Kamrau Tehsil, Sirmaur) at around 4 pm. A mob of 50 men beat him up with sticks in the middle of the street, and no one came to his rescue. Sab tamasha dekh rahe the. Even the bus driver didn’t object or try to stop the act.” She further stated: “They hit him a lot…he was bleeding and very badly injured. The attackers then dropped six buckets of sand over him and left him to die.”
However, Jindan regained consciousness after 45 minutes, and in his bloody stupor, started shouting for water. “No one gave him a sip to drink,” said Hemalata. “He roamed the roads in his blood-stained clothes but no one gave him a lift. Maybe nobody recognised him. He was finally taken away in a police van to a hospital in Nahan.”
Hemalata also stated that Jindan had made a list of 35 names from whom he thought his life was in danger, and that this was submitted to police authorities as well. She also pointed out that Jai Prakash’s name was present in the list. “We used to be harassed when we lived in Shillai; people used to knock on our doors late at night and also give dhamkis over the phone. They said: ‘Sataun mein bach gaya, agli baar haddi bhi nahi milegi.’”
On 7 September, 2018, Jindan was brutally beaten and then crushed thrice by Jai Prakash’s Scorpio. Jai Prakash then himself called the Sirmaur police authorities and said he was involved in an accident. However, at least two people—who have now turned witness and are in police’s protective custody—saw the event unfold.
Not so long ago, Kedar Singh Jindan used to run a Superlative Academy For Competition (SAC) in Shimla. A dusty old business card with his name emblazoned next to the SAC logo shows him as its Managing Director. The card reads: “What makes the difference between others and us? We create the talent, while others hunt for it.” The lines printed on the bottom of this piece of paper reads: “Every successful person has a painful story, and every painful story has a successful ending. Accept the pain and get ready for SUCCESS.” Jindan was a crusader for all causes: he fought for the rights of the oppressed SC/ST community, favoured inter-caste marriages, and was a voice that rattled Himachal’s deeply caste-ridden society. His murder will not be an easy pain to accept for those he fought for and indeed his family.
Adapted from News Laundry