In a sensational development, the Lok Sabha candidate of the Indian Justice Party was murdered in Jaunpur, about 200 Km from Lucknow in the early hours of Monday.
Bahadur Sonkar, a well-known local dalit leader of the area had challenged the might of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party nominee Dhananjay Singh, a dreaded mafia don-turned-politician, who had been allegedly issuing life threats to him through a local police officer.
Sonkar's family members had pointedly named Singh as the man behind the killing. However, local cops were hastily trying to give the case a colour of suicide and even beat up Sonkar's family members and supporters who tried to prevent the police from taking away the victim's body that was found hanging from a tree near Raja ka Talab, barely 500-metres away from his home in Ahiyapur--Rasheedabad locality of Jaunpur.
Not only has the brutal killing stunned the entire Jaunpur consttuency, but the murder has given a severe blow to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's oft repeated proclamations about "no tolerance" to crime and criminals.
In an obviously desperate damage control move, UP Mines Minister Babu Singh Kushwaha told a hurriedly convened press conference in Lucknow,that the murder was suspected to have been engineered by the Samajwadi Party . 'The Bahujan Samaj Party nominee was winning the poll hands down , so there is no reason for him to have been gunning for the IJP candidate", Kushwaha claimed.
Meanwhile ,Sonkar's body was recovered after the family found him missing from his cot laid out in the outer verandah of his residence . His slippers and mobile were lying near the cot while the mattress and sheet were also litterred around the bed, indicating a scuffle before he was forcibly carried away.
While the district superintendent of police was not available for comment, district magistrate Aparna Upadhaya simply said, "I cannot make any comment until we get the post-mortem report."
Family members of the victim however suspect mischief by local officials to manipulate the post-mortem report.
According to a member of Sonkar's family , "Bahadur was receiving repeated threats from the local police circle officer Ditendra Chaudhary who had been allegedly pressurising him to withdraw his candidature in favour of Dhananjay Singh."
He told this scribe over telephone from Jaunpur, "when Bahadur told the officer that it was not possible for him to pull out of the election fray, the cop warned him to be preapred to face serious consequences."
Significantly, Bahadur had not only spoken to the local media about these threats, but had also apprised the local authorities about it. "Even last night , he was referring to yet another phone call from the police officer who had been trying to influence him to withdraw his candidature in favour of the ruling BSP nominee". said a brother of the victim.
The family members have reason to believe that Bahadur was kidnapped and killed before his body was hung from the tree to paint a picture of suicide.
No arrests have been made so far. However , the cops were apparently so worked up about keeping things under wraps that a senior British Broadcasting Corporation correspondent was manhandled simply because he sought to ask a few probing questions and attempted to get close to the scene of the crime.
Meanwhile Indian Justice Party chief Udit Raj, who arrived in Jaunpur, has demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the case. Raj has also sought immediate arrest of the circle officer as well as the local police inspector, besides the removal of the district magistrate and district police chief who were stated to have been earlier alerted by Bahadur about the threats to his life.
Udit Raj, who left the Indian Revenue Service, entered public life by launching the IJP to promote the cause of dalits. The party was seen as making dent in the ruling BSP at a few places.