Bihar: Dalit Man Booked For Installing Saffron Flags Tells SC Commission That Cops Insulted Him With Casteist Slurs, Slapped FIR To Humiliate Him

Swati Goel Sharma

Apr 29, 2020, 11:05 AM | Updated 12:53 AM IST

Dheeraj Kumar (photo shared by Dheeraj)
Dheeraj Kumar (photo shared by Dheeraj)
  • Police book men under serious charges for merely installing saffron flags at shops run by Hindus in Bihar’s Nalanda district. One of the men booked says the cops hurled casteist slurs at him and humiliated him
  • You can also read it in Hindi- भगवा ध्वज लगाने के लिए पकड़े गए दलित का दावा- पुलिस ने कहे जातिसूचक अपशब्द

    Swarajya exclusively reported on 26 April that the Laheri Police Station in Bihar’s Nalanda district has filed an FIR against several men invoking serious charges for merely installing saffron flags at some shops.

    One of those booked is Dheeraj Kumar, who hails from the Dalit community.

    Kumar has now approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) complaining caste-based humiliation.

    Kumar is about 40 and belongs to the Pan Swasi Bunkar community, which is a scheduled caste in Bihar.

    The front page of the FIR filed at Laheri police station 
    The front page of the FIR filed at Laheri police station 

    In his letter to the New-Delhi-based commission, which is a constitutional body, Kumar has said that officials from the administration and police hurled casteist and offensive slurs at him in public, and booked him in a police case in order to humiliate him.

    “This [the FIR] is causing me great mental stress and financial loss. My patriotic feelings have been hurt by their personal attack on me. As member of a scheduled caste, I am feeling humiliated,” the letter says, as translated from Hindi by Swarajya. Kumar has also expressed fear to his life in the letter (a copy of which is with Swarajya).

    Swarajya had earlier reported that legal voices have called the FIR a “gross abuse of power” on part of the police, and observed that the charges applied have been “wrongly imposed”.

    This is because, experts say, that for merely installing saffron flags, the police have booked them on serious charges of rioting, promoting enmity between communities and indulging in malicious act intended to hurt religious feelings of the other community.

    This, experts say, is particularly objectionable as the complainant’s statement in the FIR had only stated that “there is a possibility that communal harmony may be disturbed and communal tension may be created”.

    The FIR (number 147/2020) was filed at Laheri Police Station in Bihar Sharif area of Nalanda on 20 April, on the complaint of a block development officer named Rajeev Ranjan. Kumar and one Kundan Mahto were named as accused in the complaint, (which described them as members of Bajrang Dal), along with a Twitter user and “four-five unidentified men”.

    Ranjan's complaint said that at a chowk, some Bajrang Dal members were installing saffron flags at shops and asking Hindus to buy fruits, vegetables and groceries only from Hindu-owned shops or shops sporting saffron flags.

    Kumar, however. has given a different version of the events to the SC commission.

    His letter says that on the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he had been distributing masks, sanitisers and ration to the needy amid lockdown when some Hindu vendors and shopkeepers requested him to give them saffron flags so they could install them at their carts and shops. Kumar had several spare flags from Ramnavami festivities, which he gave to them. The shop owners installed the flags as per their own choice, the letter says.

    In some time, officials from administration and police arrived at the spot and began to forcibly remove the flags. The officials threatened the shop owners that if they install the flags again, they would have to face legal action, the letter further says.

    “When Kundan and I asked them the reason behind their action, they hurled casteist and offensive slurs at me, and threatened to slap a false case on both of us,” the letter says (as translated).

    The letter further says that several officials from the administration and the police then held a meeting with them and others, where it was mutually decided that the activists would delete posts related to the saffron flags from the social media.

    Kumar’s letter says that while he and his group kept their word, the police went on to file an FIR on them two days later.

    On 28 April, Kumar told this correspondent over the phone that he is hopeful of intervention by the NCSC. He also said that the claim in Ranjan’s complaint that he and Kundan Mahto were asking Hindus to buy only from Hindus is false and is backed by no evidence.

    After the Swarajya report about the FIR was widely shared on social media, a rights organisation named Agniveer had approached the men named in the FIR.

    The organisation‘s founder Sanjeev Newar tweeted on 28 April that they have approached the SC commission in the matter.

    “Bihar police does not hold an impressive record in dealing with Dalits. They cannot go on like this without being answerable to none. If Bihar CM has no time for Dalits in his state, it doesn’t mean the Dalits voices will be silenced,” he wrote.

    Reacting to Newar’s post, a group named ‘All India Dalit Youth Organisation’ that is also backing the accused, said, “It is deplorable to see some cops acting opposite to their constitutional obligation of protecting the marginalized. All India Dalit Youth Association will pursue this matter till justice is obtained. Thanks @SanjeevSanskrit for initiating it. Jai Bhim.”

    Guru Prakash, a member of the organisation and assistant professor in Patna, told this correspondent, “The news about the alleged mistreatment of a Dalit youth for putting up a saffron flag is disturbing to the core. Dalits have been at the worst victims of the state oppression over the course of several decades. I am happy that we have initiated action in defense of the youth and we will continue to raise our voice in future as well.”

    Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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