Jagendra Singh paid with his life for doing his job: exposing the rape by a minister aided by the police and the government in Uttar Pradesh.

TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ARPIT PARASHAR

It is a blazing summer afternoon and Raghvendra Singh is barely managing to hold up with a wet towel over his head and a hand-held wooden fan. His mother Sumanlata Singh lies under the shade of a neem tree a few metres away. “She doesn’t even eat well these days; only drinks water or other cool liquids offered to her,” says a neighbour, who gives Singh company for a few hours every day. Raghvendra does not speak much, gazing into the open space with empty eyes. People too have stopped talking to him.

His conversations now revolve around offers of government jobs and the money he can receive to take care of his family. The only condition is that he ends the dharna demanding the arrest of Uttar Pradesh’s Minister of State for Backward Class Welfare, Ram Murti Verma, at whose behest four policemen and some of his goons allegedly set his journalist father Jagendra Singh ablaze on June 1. Senior leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and ex-Member of Parliament from Shahjahanpur, Mithilesh Kumar, was turned away by the family when he came to meet them last week, but the  “offers” have not stopped coming.

The five constables posted to ensure the safety of the family during their protest now take part in its conversations. Distant relatives, some unseen, some rarely seen, have all come together with offers of deals from SP leaders. “Most of the people who are not relatives are either members of the SP or affiliated to the party in some way,” Raghvendra says.

But Raghvendra has stood his ground. “We want justice first. Let the minister be arrested and a fair enquiry initiated against him and then we will think of our future.”

Others, however, are afraid the deals being offered now will not be offered later. “Justice is a much-hyped word in our state. If a journalist like Jaggu (Jagendra) who fought for justice for others can be killed in such a brutal manner and the perpetrators not even arrested, how can these kids fight the system which protects the guilty?” asks R. P. Singh, a close friend of Jagendra Singh and an ex-journalist who quit the profession to start a small business in the neighbouring district of Pilibhit a few years back. “This is not the first time a journalist has been killed here. Results of enquiries in all the cases have come to naught. We have seen it together and tried our hardest to fight the system, but to no avail,” he says.

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