The conduct of the Amethi police, in the case where a Dalit family was assaulted for running a computer centre in a minority-dominated neighbourhood, has been far from satisfactory.
No less than the National Commission for Scheduled Castes has made this observation, as the accused have been slapped with mild charges so they could evade arrest.
Miscreants barge inside the workplace of a Dalit woman, rip apart her kurta, declare their intention of making her a Muslim. When her husband intervenes, he is dragged to the street and brutally beaten with iron rods and abused with casteist slurs.
His sister and brother try to intervene but also get beaten up. When the husband becomes unconscious, the miscreants flee.
What is the crime of the victims? Simply that they are Dalits, who dared to run a computer coaching centre in a “Muslim area”.
This unnerving incident from Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district was reported by this correspondent two weeks ago. More details have emerged since, and they make the picture look even more grim.
When the victims approached the police, the latter chose to side with the accused. While the police did register a case against the attackers, the charges were intentionally kept weak. Half of the accused were never arrested. The victims now remain vulnerable to further assaults.
No less than the chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) has accused the Amethi police of diluting the case and assisting the perpetrators in obtaining a stay on their arrest.
Watch the videos of the assault in this thread:
See the condition of the 27-year-old husband, Shashank Sonkar— Swati Goel Sharma (@swati_gs) July 14, 2019
He told me the group that beat him up has been pressuring him to shut down his coaching centre
Why? Because it's located in a "Muslim area" and the men, he says, are jealous of his successhttps://t.co/5Yhk9sLZ0E
The First Information Report (FIR) in the case was filed on 21 June by Shashank Padam Bhushan Sonkar, 27, and his wife Gayatri. The police booked four men — Mazrool Hasan, Shabbu, Faiziyab and Rehaan — under IPC sections 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (provoking breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) along with the relevant sections of the SC/ST Act.
The case remained unnoticed for weeks until Shashank took to social media to allege mishandling of the case by the police. He uploaded a series of mobile-shot videos of his thrashing and injuries. The videos caused shock and outrage, with many users appealing to Smriti Irani, the Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Amethi, to intervene.
To calm tempers, the official handle of the Amethi police posted a video statement by circle officer (CO) Tiloi, stating that an FIR had been filed and arrests had been made.
The CO’s statement was also shared by Irani on Twitter:
But Was The Action Taken By Police Enough? Far From It.
The scales of justice moved in favour of the victims only when a rights organisation named Agniveer took Shashank’s complaint to the SC commission after learning of it on social media.
The complaint addressed to NCSC chairman Ram Shankar Katheria alleged that the police went soft on the attackers. It said the police deliberately dragged on the investigation and did not record Gayatri’s statement under section 164 in time, enabling two of the four accused to obtain a stay on their arrest. The letter also said that many people backing the accused are pressuring the couple into withdrawing the case.
A hearing by the commission was held last week on 18 July, with attendance of the CO, Tiloi. The observations made by chairman Katheria, noted in the minutes of the meeting (a copy of which is with Swarajya), are scathing. A big question mark over the police’s conduct and intent has been raised.
The SC chairman said that it was clear from the pictures and videos of the incident that the police did not invoke strong charges against the accused, enabling two accused — Shabbu and Rehaan — to obtain a stay on their arrest.
Notably, the high court on 2 July stayed their arrest on the ground that the sections invoked entailing a sentence of less than seven years. As per activist Vashi Sharma of Agniveer, it was all thanks to the Amethi police not booking the accused under IPC 307 (attempt to murder) despite video evidence and applying non-serious charges.
High court's stay order. Attackers who molested Dalit woman saying "Tujhe Musalmani bana denge" & tried to lynch her husband as evident in video filed petition in H court to quash FIR! Court found charges on them non-serious thanks to @AmethiPolice 4 not booking case under 307. pic.twitter.com/rn023k520K— Vashi Sharma Agniveer (@VashiAgniveer) July 14, 2019
The chairman further punctured holes in CO Tiloi’s claims of ignorance of the video evidence. Katheria said that the CO’s own byte posted on social media was in reply to those same videos.
Pulled up by the commission thus, the Amethi police swung into action and filed a supplementary FIR the very next day on 19 July (a copy of which is with Swarajya). The police identified six more men as accused from the videos, and invoked charges of rioting and criminal intimidation, along with relevant sections of the SC/ST Act.
Sonkar, however, told this correspondent that his plea that the assault was an attempt to kill him continues to be ignored.
The issue is likely to come up in the next hearing scheduled on 23 July. In the last hearing, the chairman had taken strong exception to the fact that the district magistrate and the Amethi superintendent of police skipped it. They have been summoned this time.
The Amethi case, once again, shows that Dalit victims continue to get a raw deal by the police. This has been found to be especially the case when the perpetrators belong to the minority community.
This correspondent has earlier reported several cases of Dalit atrocity where the police sided with perpetrators when they were from the minority community.
- In Bihar’s Begusarai district, a cop changed the statement of a Dalit family to dilute the case against their attackers. Munna Kumar, a minor boy from the dalit family, told this correspondent that his neighbour Laddu Alam barged into his house with two men, one of them completely naked, and attempted to rape his mother and sister and assaulted him. He said the neighbouring family had been pressuring them to leave the “Muslim area”.
- In Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area, the police refused to name the suspect, Akhtar Sheikh, in the FIR when a minor Dalit girl went missing. On the girl’s recovery, the police dragged the investigation in the case, ensuring easy bail for Sheikh.
- In a similar case in New Delhi, the police again refused to add 34-year-old Saddam Ansari’s name as accused in the FIR when he allegedly kidnapped a minor Dalit girl. It was only after the SC commission’s intervention that the police launched a multi-state search operation and recovered the girl after three weeks. The commission pulled up the police for several lapses.