Bihar, Ground Report

Ground Report: We don’t trust police administration, says kin of custodial death victim in East Champaran

Nation’s Hindi heartland in near past has become den for torture and custodial death of undertrial prisoners and suspects. Uttar Pradesh’s shameful trait, custodial death seems to be copied by its neighboring state, Bihar. Earlier this month, two Muslim youth of East Champaran, were tortured to death under police custody in Sitamarhi district of Bihar on suspicion of loot and murder.

Gufran Alam and Tasleem of Ramdiha village which falls under jurisdiction of Chakia police station, East Champaran were handpicked by police up on midnight of 6th March without mentioning proper reason of arrest. When asked about their identity they identified themselves as Chakia police (local police). But next morning, victims’ family came to know that it was Sitamarhi police who detained Gufran and Tasleem overnight disguised as Chakia police.

According to a local police informer both the victims (Gufran and Tasleem) were at Dumra police station, Sitamadhi. Their families reached police station in Sitamadhi but did not get any clue of the two and lastly their body was recovered from district’s Sadar hospital.

A Painful tale of tyranny:

Ramdiha village with a population of more than 10,000 has an outnumbering minority youth population who are based in Middle East to earn their livelihood. One among them was Gufran Alam (34) son of Munnavar Ali.  An instrumental fitter by profession in Saudi Arabia he came to his native two months ago and in midst he was picked up police.

Gufran’s father, Munnavar Ali explained the incident to Newsd and said, “On Midnight 6th March the police banged in our house asking for my son. Immediately he was arrested and taken away. We could not understand on what basis he had been arrested. He was an innocent individual with no cases filed against him anywhere. I demand justice from the Chief Minister with compensation of Rs 50 Lakh and a job for her wife.”

Sanawar Ali, cousin of Gufran reiterated- my brother has died in savagely fierce manner due to violence unleashed on him that too when he was not a proven criminal. Even if he had any involvement in criminal act, he did not deserve to be beaten to death but nothing as such was the case. With heavy voice he added, now we don’t trust police administration anymore and appeal for justice.

Somewhat same was Tasleem’s arrest but it was from Madrassa situated in village of which he used to be the security guard says his father Mohammad Molajim. Md. Molajim (62) used to be a sharecropper before becoming disabled by one leg. Reiterating the incident while talking to Newsd he said- The police came to our house on 6th March at 1.30am asking for my son, Tasleem who then was not in home.

Listening to this, the policemen threatened us of bad consequence…later they arrested Tasleem from Madrassa. Our family demands justice from Bihar government.

Fact of the matter remains Gufran did not have criminal past but Tasleem did have a criminal record in past said Chandeshwar Singh, former mukhiya of the village. But this conspiracy was hatched by both Chakia police and Sitamadhi police and reason remains unknown to us. A local police informer (Mukesh) of our village was involved in it.

Police’s role under scanner:

As per statement of Bihar’s Director General Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey, “Five policemen including Chandra Bhushan Singh, the officer-in-charge of Dumra police station, in Sitamarhi were suspended. They will also face departmental action.” But on contrary, the SHO of Dumra police station escaped from custody which is nothing but a severe security lapse.

The custodial death took place in Dumra police station, Sitamadhi but Chakia police’s role also remains vindictive as without their support officially no arrest is possible in home district. Besides this, a local police informer and SHO Sanjay Singh’s role were questioned by villagers. A gherao of local police station was conducted after outrage and protest blocking NH-28 for hours.

Reaching out to local police it was known that their informer is not seen in near by area since 10 days of the incident. This adds up the suspicion.

After arrest of two suspects, they were beaten to death within 24 hours. Most shockingly, six nails were hammered in legs & hands. Wrist and elbow were broken and body blackened due to excessive beating. Photos and video clip of dead bodies of Gufran and Tasleem disturbingly depicted the custodial torture of worst order.

Picture of custodial death is gruesome. As per government data, as quoted in a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR)  1,674 deaths in custody occurred in India between April 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018 over five deaths in custody everyday. Uttar Pradesh with highest number of custodial death (374) topped the list with Bihar (109) at sixth position.

Keeping it simple, whatever may be the conclusion of the arrest of two minority youth from Bihar’s East Champaran, in no way there can be any justification of the loss of lives.

Criticism from former DGPs across states:

Eight former Director General of Police (DGPs) across different states have come together to condemn this incident and wrote to the Chief Minister of Bihar seeking for prompt action. Read their statement below:

We former Directors General of Police have come together to condemn the alleged custodial torture of two men at the Dumra police station, Sitamarhi district, Bihar, on 7th March, that eventually caused their death. We extend our condolences to the families of these victims.

We are clear that the such interrogation methods as alleged, have no place in policing. Third degree is simply not acceptable and reflects poor professional skills. There must be zero-tolerance of such actions, regardless of the antecedents of the accused, or intentions of the police personnel involved. The prompt action by the police leadership and state government against the erring personnel is welcome and reassuring.

All efforts must be directed toward apprehending the perpetrators at the earliest and protection be afforded to the victim’s families. It is only prompt and decisive action by the police against their own delinquents that can maintain faith in the rule of law.

As former DGPs from across the country, we urge state governments to allocate adequate budgets and forensic facilities and strongly advise the police leadership to ensure regular training of field police personnel. This is essential if capacities are to be built up as required for contemporary policing skills. At the same time experts must be enlisted to help initiate the behavioural changes required.

Signed:

  • Julio Ribeiro, DGP Punjab (Retd)
  • Prakash Singh, DGP UP Assam and BSF (Retd)
  • P.K.H. Tharakan, DGP Kerala (Retd)
  • Kamal Kumar, DGP National Police Academy, Hyderabad (Retd)
  • Jacob Punnoose, DGP Kerala (Retd)
  • Sanjeev Dayal, DGP Maharashtra ( Retd)
  • Jayanto N. Choudhury, DGP Assam and NSG (Retd)
  • N Ramachandran, DGP Meghalaya (Retd)

Former DGP of Maharashtra Sanjeev Dayal while talking to Newsd expressed his views about the incident and said- The custodial death is not a good sign for a healthy police administration. Its derogatory and must not happen. So we collectively have raised our concerns.

When rules and procedure for a fair trial are in shambles, how and where the kin of victims would seek justice? Police has turned out to be perpetrator of custodial crime. After more 10 days of of cruelty no concrete result has surfaced in public. Moreover public scrutiny has already begun from illustrious eight former DGPs.

Certainly Bihar government and its police department have become non-serious entities. With blurred and unfair police administration, custodial death in Bihar is a new normal.

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