Bhopal: The panic was palpable in Madhya Pradesh’s Satna district after news of the custodial killing of a 38-year-old man broke last night. The man, who was detained on suspicion of theft, was shot dead from close range inside a police station on Sunday night.
The deceased was identified as Rajpati Kushwaha, a resident of Narayanpur Chowki, Singhpur, in Satna district. Singhpur police officials detained him on Sunday evening after the suspicion of his involvement in a case of theft was reported at the police station a few days ago.
After news of alleged illegal custodial death came about, the deceased's kin, with the support of the villagers, picketed the police station and demanded that the body be handed over to them and that action was taken against the culprit. The police resorted to a lathi-charge to dispel the mob.
SP with MLA Sidharth Kushwaha.
Kushwaha’s kin alleged that inspector Vikram Pathak of the Singhpur police station shot him in the head using his own service revolver when drunk.
“Initially, the police claimed that he shot himself with the service gun. Later, they admitted that the bullet had been fired by the Singhpur police station in-charge Vikram Pathak,” said local journalist Amit Sengar.
Local media quoted police sources saying that Kushwaha had been shot from close range and that there was no way he could have been shot in the forehead with his hands tied during an interrogation.
After the news of custodial death broke, resulting in the lathi-charge on the protesters, security has been beefed up in the area to prevent a law-and-order situation, the Satna police said.
Speaking to NewsClick over the phone, Umesh Jogi, IG Rewa Zone, said: “Two policemen Vikram Pathak and constable Aashish have been suspended and an independent probe has been launched to look into this matter. It is a human rights violation matter.”
“Satna collector Ajay Katesaria has ordered a judicial probe into the incident,” he added.
Speaking to the media outside the police station, Satna MLA Sidharth Kushwaha claimed that the deceased was a farmer and that the police had detained him twice prior to the incident, releasing him after interrogation in connection with a theft. “However, an innocent man has been killed in police custody. There should be justice in the matter,” he said.
Satna SP Reyaz Iqbal did not respond to multiple attempts for a comment on the incident.
Taking cognisance of the matter, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan transferred SP Reyaz Iqbal and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakhs to Kushwaha's family.
Speaking to NewsClick, Sushila, the wife of the deceased, said: “First the police framed my husband in a false case and then killed him. What do I do now? I have a 16-year-old daughter.”
When asked about the ex gratia amount, she said, “How long will this Rs 10 lakh last for? Nothing can replace a husband and a father." Speaking over the phone, she added that if “CM Chouhan really wants to compensate for the loss, he should increase the ex gratia amount to Rs 25 lakh and provide a job to a family member.”
According to data shared by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Parliament on September 17, close to five people died in custody on a daily basis in India in 2019-20. Between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, 1697 people died in police custody or in jails.
The maximum number of judicial custodial deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh while the most number of deaths in police custody were in MP.