Police personnel here fight armed bandits and notorious gangsters but they just don't seem to have the spirit to occupy a room at a police station believed to be haunted for 10 years by a cleric who died in a road accident.
The verandah is preferable to the office of the station house officer (SHO) at the Tarkaluwa police station in Deoria, about 300 km from the state capital Lucknow. The room has been empty for the last decade because of the belief that those who occupy it will come to harm.
"It is this popular belief that keeps an inspector away from his office at this police station," Tarkaluwa SHO Upendra Yadav told IANS.
"Like my predecessors, I, too, would not be operating from that office," added Yadav, who took charge of the police station around six months ago.
Despite having a well-furnished office, Yadav, like his predecessors, operates from the verandah. From conducting meetings to listening to grievances of the public, Yadav does it all from the space outside the cabin.
According to the police station staff, senior officials in the past tried to persuade the SHOs to work from the cabin but to no avail.
According to locals, the office is haunted by a Muslim cleric, Maulana Baba, who died around two decades ago in a road accident a few metres way from the police station.
"It is said that the grievously injured Baba remained lying near the police station unattended, and ultimately died. Thereafter, Baba's spirit started haunting the office of the police station," said J.S. Dwivedi, who runs a stationery shop.
SHO Yadav denies any knowledge of the incident. "I really don't know how true it is... I just want to respect the sentiments of locals associated with this belief."
No one is willing to divulge details, but clearly the fear persists.
"After learning that no SHO prefers to work from his office, a few years ago a former district police chief even got prayers performed and rituals conducted inside the police station to free it from the spirit," an official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"The former SP (Superintendent of Police) thought that the rituals would allay the fears of the SHO. However, even those rituals could not motivate the SHO to occupy the office. Now, the seniors have even stopped forcing an SHO to work from the cabin.
"A few SHOs in the past ignored the belief and tried to work from the cabin. However, they dropped the idea after having bitter experiences in the form of road accidents, sudden deterioration in their health and family problems of different kinds," added the official.
Though no one sits in the SHO's office that remains open, the cabin is cleaned at least once in week.
When contacted for his view, Superintendent of Police D.K. Chaudhary told IANS: "I am looking into the matter...For a solution, we may also get the office of the inspector shifted to some other building."
Clearly, not a ghost of chance of anyone sitting in the room!