Lucknow: A 25-year-old man, who used to work as labourer at a bangle-manufacturing unit in Uttar Pradesh's Firozabad, died by suicide on Friday after allegedly being tortured by the UP police in custody. The incident comes at a time when the state government is already under fire for cases of atrocities against Dalits.
The victim, identified as Pintu Diwakar, used to work in a factory which made bangles in Firozabad. He ended his life by hanging from a tree, the police said. Diwakar's family has alleged that the police tried to implicate him in a fake robbery case and attempted to extort Rs 50,000 from him in order to secure his release from custody.
The victim, a father of four, was found hanging from a tree around 1.5 kilometres away from his house. He hails from Dheerpura village which falls under the Nagla Singhi police station and used to work at Shrinath Factory.
“My brother Diwakar was taken into custody without any reason by the UP police at around 1:45 am on Tuesday and given electric shocks throughout the night for a crime he did not commit. He received injuries on his limbs, chest and back. He was unable to eat and walk properly. The cops released him only after an assurance that he would pay Rs 50,000, else he would be implicated in a robbery case and sent to jail again. He was under pressure to pay up. He could not arrange the money and took his life,” the victim’s father alleged, telling NewsClick that his son was at the factory in Firozabad when the incident happened.
Diwakar's father also claimed that that the cops threatened him to not to issue any statement about the alleged torture in custody. “The police had booked him in a fake case of loot and sent him to jail in 2014,” he said.
“He was a family man and was not involved in any criminal activity. He used to work very hard for a living,” said Dheerpura sarpanch J.P. Yadav.
Meanwhile, the district police has rejected the family’s allegations. City SP Mukesh Chandra Mishra said Diwakar was brought to the police station on September 29 in relation to a case of looting and was released within 24 hours. The SP said that the details of the case have been recorded at the Nagla Singhi police station.
The victim’s family members, who have accused the police of torture, staged a protest against the police and blocked a road along with some locals. After the police assured of action against Devendra Kumar – one of the accused and a Circle Officer (CO) who has been accused of misconduct in the past and has at least two departmental inquiries pending against him – the family agreed to go ahead with the last rites. The district administration also announced Rs five lakhs as financial assistance to the family.
This is the second such incident in a month where a member of the Dalit community died due to alleged torture in police custody in UP. A 19-year-old Dalit man, who was illegally detained at a police station in the Lalganj area of Raebareli district, died in police custody on August 30.
Mohit and his brother Sonu, residents of Behta Kalan village, were detained by the police on the suspicion of vehicle theft on August 28, and taken to Lalganj police station. While Sonu was released after a few hours, Mohit, according to family members, was allegedly tortured by the police personnel at the station.
He was rushed to the district hospital on August 30, where he died at around 11 am. His body was later sent for a postmortem.
Uttar Pradesh has the jighest number of custodial death cases registered between April 1, 2019, and 31 March 31, 2020, according to data shared by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Commenting on the atrocities against Dalits, S.R. Darapuri, former Inspector General of UP police, said: “Since the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government came to power in UP, cases continue to mount because the UP police have gradually turned autocratic on the direction of the state government. The Yogi government have given a free hand to the cops in the name of controlling crime and this is how police is leaving no stone unturned to torture Dalits and members of the minority community.”
“The police are by-and-large rotten because a large number of officers are corrupt. They therefore play into the hands of corrupt politicians easily,” Darapuri said.
The former IG said: “When we detain an accused or suspect and bring him into custody, there should an entry made but it never happens in UP, which is illegal. Torture against marginalised sections is common here,” said Darapuri, adding that despite the Indian government had signed the UN Convention in October 1997 to bring in a legislation to prevent the torture of individuals by police and public officials, but there is no law against torture.
Calling the Yogi Adityanath government “anti-Dalit”, Satish Prakash, a Dalit activist and professor, said that there must be a discussion on why most of the people who die in custody or due to police torture belong to the weaker sections. “Unfortunately, they are the people who go to the police station for justice and they are being tortured and killed in custody. If this happens to them, their belief in the judicial system will fade away,” he added.