People sitting on dharna
People sitting on dharna

Rajasthan: Dalit community stage sit-in dharna over custodial death in Chittorgarh

Deceased was at Kapasan jail since March 27. Family demand FIR against police and jail staff under SC & ST Act.

Tension flared up at Chittorgarh's district hospital and collectorate premises on Thursday, as members of the Dalit community staged a sit-in dharna in protest over the alleged custodial harassment leading to the death of an elderly Dalit man. Suresh, aged 55, and a resident of Mewda Colony, which is Kanjar dominant, was reportedly in judicial custody at Kapasan jail since March 27. However, he was allegedly subjected to severe physical and mental torture by the Kapasan police and jail authorities, which led to his hospitalization and subsequent death.

SureshFile photo

The family members of Suresh alleged that the police had unlawfully arrested him without any documents or reasons. They said that he was tortured both by the police as well as the jail authorities to an extent that his health condition worsened, and he was shifted to the hospital. However, the jail authorities did not inform his medical condition or hospital admission to the kin. The family and community members demanded a criminal case to be lodged against the Kapasan police as well as the Jail officials under the SC-ST Act.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Shambulal, the deceased's brother, said that on March 18, the Mewda Colony Police' Chowky in-charge Dinesh Chaudhary came looking for Suresh. He asked him to accompany him to the police station, claiming that there was a warrant standing against Suresh. However, the family and community members interfered, and Suresh came back home. Shambulal further added, "On 27th March, the Kapasan police came again and took my brother away without showing any documents."

Family unaware of deceased's medical condition

Suresh's son Rakesh said that the police produced his father before the magistrate, who ordered him to be sent to judicial custody same day. However, the family was not allowed to meet him or speak to him during the entire period of almost eight days he was in custody. Rakesh added that on April 5th, his mother and other family members had gone to the jail to meet his father, but they were told that Suresh was taken to the district hospital as he was ill.

When some family members finally managed to see him at the hospital, they found him in the ICU on a ventilator and in critical condition.

Body marks due to beating
Body marks due to beating

The man had suffered severe injuries and bruises on various parts of his body, which were turning black. On Thursday morning, he died. The family is demanding an FIR against the responsible authorities, including the Kapasan police and jail authorities, for alleged third-degree torture leading to his death. A written complaint has been given to the Superintendent of Police at Chittorgarh, Rajan Dushyant, in this regard. On being asked about it, the police officer said that the deceased was a permanent warrantee and that under the directions of the High Court, the police department has been arresting such individuals to maintain law and order. Dushyant also stated that the deceased was not tortured by the police, as he was produced before the magistrate on the same day of his arrest.

Prejudiced action

It is reported that the police had been harassing Suresh and other members of the Kanjar community on baseless allegations of theft and other crimes. According to sources, there are over 260 criminal cases pending against men belonging to the Dalit community at various police stations in Chittorgarh. The community is allegedly known for its habitual offenders who are often involved in unlawful conduct such as stealing, dacoity, and burglary.

Meanwhile, the family refused to move from the dharna site until their demands were met. The family also insists on holding a postmortem by a medical board to determine the actual cause of death. Among the other demands, include an ex gratia of 50 lakh rupees and a government job to one of the kin.

The incident has sparked widespread outrage in the community, with people demanding justice for Suresh and strict action against the responsible authorities. The incident also highlights the continuing issue of custodial violence in India and the lack of accountability for those who perpetrate such acts.

People sitting on dharna
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