Prayagraj Murders: UP Police Releases All 8 'Upper' Caste Accused, Sends Dalit Youth to Jail

The 19-year-old labourer's family has claimed that cops are keen to cover up the crime of the 'upper' caste family and that he is a scapegoat.

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New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh police have released all of the eight ‘upper’ caste accused who had been held for the murder of four members of a Dalit family and now sent a 19-year-old Dalit man to jail, in addition to arresting two other Dalit youths.

Indian Express has reported of this development, noting that police have not mentioned why they chose to release the ‘upper’ caste accused. The extended family of the four victims have said that they now fear that the ‘upper’ caste men could attack them as revenge for alleging that they were responsible for the crime.

On November 26, the bodies of a 50-year-old man, his 45-year-old wife, 16-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were found in their house in Gohri village of Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj district. The minor girl’s body was found in a room while the bodies of the three others were in the courtyard of the house, leading to suspicion of gang rape. Later, police claimed that the girl was not a minor, but 25-years-old – a claim contested by her extended family.

Relatives of the family told reporters that police had a role to play in attempting to forge a compromise over a land dispute that had raged since 2019 between the family and its ‘upper’ caste neighbours,

As opposition pressure mounted, state police suspended two of its officials who were allegedly forcing the victims to compromise.

Eleven people from an ‘upper’ caste Thakur family were named in the FIR and charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the SC/ST Act and the POCSO Act. Eight of them had been arrested and are now released. POCSO charges too have been dropped based on police’s claim that the girl is not a minor.

On November 28, police issued a statement saying that they have now arrested a youth who “belonged to the same community as the deceased.” In his tweet, however, IPS officer and ADG of Prayagraj zone, Prem Prakash, identified the Dalit youth as a 23-year-old.

The Dalit youth’s family said he had been detained by police on the evening of Saturday, November 27. The teenaged labourer was sent to judicial custody on Monday. Two other Dalit youths from the same village were also held and their families picketed outside the local police station asking for them to be released.

In a statement on Sunday, Prakash had said that the 19-year-old was stalking the girl who was raped and killed. “He was harassing the girl… On the basis of the last message and circumstantial evidence, he was arrested,” Indian Express reported him as having said.

The victims’ family have pointed out the improbability of him having conducted all four murders. “And if the boy had an issue with my niece, he would have killed her, why the other three?” the brother of the man who was killed said. His niece, he said, was a minor, unlike police’s claim that she is a 23-year-old college graduate.

He also said that police have arrested the Dalit youth in order to protect the ‘upper’ caste accused.

The accused youth’s elder sister had also countered police’s stalking claims and said that he was home when the murders took place.

Another senior officer investigating the case said that police have not had “enough time with the accused.” Two top cops that Express contacted for clarity on the judicial custody did not respond to it.