New Sarpanch Salma’s supporters kill ex-Sarpanch’s daughter-in-law Poonam Rajbhar in Azamgarh, UP

Poonam Rajbhar the daughter-in-law of the former Sarpanch of Ishakpur village in Azamgarh, UP was shot dead inside her house by a political rival last month. Other family members too were injured and they remain hospitalized in critical condition. The killers were supporters of one Faiz, who had backed a Muslim woman Salma to win the recent panchayat elections.

Ramawadh Rajbhar was elected the sarpanch in the 2010 panchayat election when he defeated Faiz.  Rajbhar won the election in 2015 as well. This time around his wife, the deceased woman’s mother-in-law, was the candidate but she lost to Salma who was backed by Faiz. It is alleged that threats to Rajbhar began immediately after the results and that police inaction led to this murder. 

Faiz’s goons were taking out a ‘victory procession’ when they started sloganeering provocatively outside Rajbhar’s house. He asked them to remain peaceful and move on. But suddenly around 20-25 people armed with guns, sharp weapons, and sticks attacked the house. 

Some were firing bullets indiscriminately and others were brandishing swords. The whole village reverberated with the sound of gunfire. Poonam was shot in her head killing her on the spot. A young girl from the family, Preeti Rajbhar (20) too was shot in the firing, while Ranjit Rajbhar (30) was attacked with a sword and he too was seriously injured. Both Ranjit and Preeti were taken to Jaunpur, and Preeti was later shifted to Varanasi for specialized treatment.

The miscreants attacked the house of Chhotelal, a supporter of Ram Awadh, and assaulted and injured both Chottelal and the women there too. On receiving information about the incident, senior police officials including the SP Sudhir Kumar Singh reached the spot. Police sent Poonam’s body for post-mortem. 

Communal tension prevailed in the area following which UP Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel were deployed in the village along with the police. It is said that a faction of the Rajbhar community in the village also supported the Muslim candidate.  

Om Prakash Rajbhar, the biggest Rajbhar leader in UP, leads SBSP (Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party) and was earlier a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. But he walked out of the NDA just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and was critical of the BJP after Allahabad HC stayed a UP government decision to include Rajbhars and 16 other OBC communities in the SC (Scheduled Caste) list.

Late last year, Rajbhar had met AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi to discuss the possibility of an alliance for the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly polls due in 2022.


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