Bhagalpur blinding victims

Even Almighty failed them!

BJ Mirror Correspondent

The tale of paradise lost is as fresh today as 30 years ago for the Bhagalpur blinding victims. The society may have forgotten it as a bad dream but ‘operation Gangajal’ is still blood chilling for them. The ever flowing Ganga has got more polluted since then and more murkier has grown the bureaucratic jungle for Patel Shah, Umesh Yadav, Devraj Khatri and many others who had lost every thing in the snake and ladder game with the brute police 1979-80.

Devraj, a victim of infamous Bhagalpur blinding case, has been running from pillar to post for the last seven years to get kerosene oil dealership, as given to other blinding victims to earn a living. But, his quest has become unending. Devraj, now in his mid-50s, was among the 33 young men whose eyes were gouged out and acid poured into the sockets by Bhagalpur cops. No body exactly knows where these hapless and god forsaken victims are. All Patel, Umesh and Devraj could say was that one Baljit Singh shifted to Punjab while two others are in Delhi; two belonged to adjacent Banka district and only three of them have been left in Bhagalpur. “Most of the victims have died, mainly due to lack of medicare, Umesh said.

The macabre memories of the bone-chilling ordeal are still fresh in their minds as if they went through it only recently. “The cops had called a doctor from the block hospital who would ask me ‘can you see anything’ even as I cried and writhed in pain every time the policemen dropped acid into my eyes”, recalled Patel, who was blinded at the Rajaun police station on the orders of a deputy SP. “The same DSP supervised my `operation’ at Ishakchak police station”, Umesh said and added they had pierced a `suua’ (a long needle used for stitching gunny bags), ‘narhani’ (a barber’s nail-cutter) or a bicycle wheel spoke into the youths’ eyes and then poured acid into the mutilated sockets with a dropper or a syringe or directly from a bottle.

Politicians had a rich harvest of political dividends. Producer-director Prakash Jha crafted a celluloid story as `Gangaajal’ and earned name and fame and money. Lawyers fought pitched court battles and courts also did their duty. A bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Y V Chandrachud, had observed: “This court and the country awoke one day to the incredible fact that in Bhagalpur, under-trial prisoners were subjected to the most inhuman torture imaginable. There is nothing the court can do to restore the physical damage …but the offenders must be brought to book, at least in the hope that such brutal atrocities will not be committed again”.

But nothing changed for the blinding victims. Lawyers extending free legal aid to the victims commented, “No one remembers having heard of any policeman being prosecuted for their act of savagery. All of them must have since retired”. And government compensation and help is still a far cry. Devraj lives in a hut in Ishak Chak locality, and is depressed. Unlike Umesh and Patel who have been `compensated with’ a kerosene dealership each, Devraj has been running vainly from pillar to post for the last seven years to get a similar compensation so as to earn a living. “I want to die now”, said exasperated Devraj.

Following a Supreme Court directive, each blinding victim was given a lump sum of Rs 30,000 and, then, a monthly pension of Rs 500 which was later enhanced to Rs 750. The pension money does come but not on time. No one knows where all the blinding victims are. The trio have not seen their children, as they were born after their paradise was lost. The lawyer, who runs a free legal cell rues that “the SC orders were not followed in spirit”. Even the Almighty seems to have left them to fend for themselves.

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