Nagaur
Police stand outside Om Automobiles where the assault against the two Dalit brothers took place on 16 February | Manisha Mondal, ThePrint
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Jaipur: The fact-finding committee constituted by Deputy Chief Minister and Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot to look into the torture of two Dalit youths in Nagaur has questioned the role of the police in the incident, ThePrint has learnt.

The committed has found that the police — which comes under the home department held by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot — tried to hush up the case, sources said.

Pilot, who submitted the confidential report of the committee to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi Thursday, refused to share its details.

On 16 February, two Dalit cousins in Nagaur were beaten up and humiliated. The incident happened at a motorbike service centre where the workers accused them of stealing Rs 50,000. They thrashed the two youths and even inserted a screwdriver laced with petrol in the private parts of one of the victims. However, the police did not take action until a video of the incident went viral on social media.

‘Exerted pressure on victims to reach compromise’

Contrary to the state government’s claim Friday that the victims did not approach the police to register a complaint, Congress sources told ThePrint that the committee has concluded that the police did not act properly and rather tried to hush up the matter.

The committee comprising cabinet minister Master Bhanwar Lal, MLA and former state police chief Harish Meena and PCC general secretary Mahesh Sharma prepared the report after spending two days in the area speaking to several people as well as the police and the district administration.

According to the sources, the committee members were told by the people that the SHO and the main accused belonged to the same upper caste because of which the police delayed action as they “tried to hush up the case” by brokering a deal to get the victims to reach a compromise. The victims were allegedly offered money to close the matter than register a case against the accused.

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“The committee has reportedly found serious lapses on the part of the police, which instead of taking action against the accused tried to bail them out by exerting pressure on the victims to reach a compromise,” a Congress leader, who did not wish to be identified, told ThePrint.

The state government had claimed in the state assembly that the victims did not approach the police, and that the video of the incident reached the police only on 19 February. “The police, when it came to know about the incident, arrested all seven accused on 19 February,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal said in the House Friday.

The committee, however, found it untenable that the police came to know about the incident after three days only when the video of the incident went viral.

“What sort of policing is this that the brother of the victim came to know about the incident through social media hundreds of miles away in Pokhran but the local police in a small place like Nagaur was unaware of it,” a senior Congress leader asked.

Questions on state govt’s ‘soft action’

While the committee members refused to confirm if the report comments on the state government’s role, questions are being asked within the party about the “soft action”.

The government meanwhile has sent the station house office concerned to the police lines, but no action has been taken against any senior police officer.

Congress MLAs have been for some time questioning the law and order and the police functioning in the state. Now, with these recent incidents, party leaders are talking in a hushed tone about whether Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot should hand over the home department — he also holds the finance department — to someone else as he is preoccupied with other matters.

The state government had swung into action only after Rahul Gandhi took cognisance of the incident and tweeted about it. Describing the incident horrific and sickening, he had asked the state government to take immediate action against the perpetrators.

Sachin Pilot, the Pradesh Congress Committee chief, had immediately constituted the fact-finding committee.

Speaking to reporters in Jodhpur Friday, he once again condemned the frequent incidents of crime and atrocities against Dalits. He said the Congress while in opposition stood up against any such atrocities that took place, and now that it is in government, it has a responsibility to make sure that such incidents should not take place.

According to him, the government has been doing its duty but apart from the transfer or other actions, there was a need to fix officers’ responsibility over the failure in preventing the crime and conveying the political message of the party’s zero-tolerance against anti-Dalit incidents.

Speaker Dr C.P. Joshi also took the government to task asking tough questions in the House about the custodial death of a Dalit youth in Barmer on 27 February. Intervening in the matter when Dhariwal was giving a statement on the incident Friday, the Speaker asked if the government was contemplating any law against such incidents and if the family of the victim would be given any compensation.

The minister claimed that when the victim’s family was called and showed the body, they confirmed there were no injury marks. Yet, the postmortem was conducted.

“Then why did you suspend the SP and other police officers?” Joshi promptly asked. He also made a terse comment that if he (the minister) thought the policemen were so “decent” that they did nothing to a suspect who spent the entire night in the police station.

Other incidents of violence against Dalits, minorities

Besides Nagaur, three incidents of violence against Dalits and minorities have come to light in the last one month.

On 27 February, a Dalit youth died in police custody. The victim, identified as Jitendra Khatik, was taken into custody Wednesday evening on suspicion that he was buying stolen goods from thieves and selling them. Despite no FIR against him, he was illegally detained and kept in the police station at night.

As the protests started in Barmer, SP Sharad Choudhary suspended the SHO and removed all members of police station staff Thursday. However, he was removed too and put on APO (awaiting posting order) by the government later in the day.

On 15 February, three Dalit youths were assaulted after being accused of stealing donkeys in Jaisalmer. The youths were thrashed with sticks and kicked by nearly a dozen people and were later handed over to the Sangarh police. Five persons were arrested after a video of the incident surfaced.

On 29 January this year, a young man was brutalised for allegedly stealing a mobile phone in Barmer. Besides thrashing the victim, the accused allegedly inserted an iron rod into the private part of the victim, a Muslim, and made a video of the incident. The police arrested the main accused.

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