When he spotted one of his acquaintances standing in a long queue outside an ATM, 45-year-old Lallan Singh Kushwaha shouted loudly: “Modiji ne sabko line main khada kar diya hai (Modi has forced everyone to stand in queues)”.
His quip, made in a lighter vein, was not taken lightly. A man came out of a nearby shop and began beating Kushwaha with a cricket stump, much to the horror of the people standing in the queue.
By the time Kushwaha’s acquaintance rushed forward to rescue him, Kushwaha, who whitewashes walls for a living in south east Delhi, had began bleeding from the head. Soon, he fell on the ground and fainted.
The incident took place on December 15 in Jaitpur. When HT visited his house on Monday, Kushwaha was in bed and unable to stand on his feet. He lives with wife and two sons in a rented two-room house on Ismailpur road in Jaitpur Extension-1.
Besides head injuries, his legs and hands were swollen. His wife was tending to him, and his sons- Vishal, a Class 3 student and Vikas, who studies in Class 2 - watched helplessly.
Kushwaha says he cannot forget the day (December 15). At 11am, he came out of his house with R 6,000 cash to buy a second-hand television set for his children. But when he reached the TV shop, it was closed. So he started walking back home.
On the way, Kushwaha came across an ATM in front of which people were standing in a long queue. He stopped when he spotted one of his acquaintance and struck a conversation.
“I know that person, who is in his 40s and lives in the neighbourhood. He was tired. So I said what I felt. Everyone, rich or poor, has been made to stand in queues because of the demonetisation announced by the Prime Minister,” said Kushwaha.
As soon as he uttered the word, Aashiq -- who runs a grocery store nearby -- allegedly started beating Kushwaha with a cricket stump. Kushwaha cried and begged them to stop. But Aashiq and another man continued their assault.
One of the local residents called his wife Bimlesh, who called the police. Kushwaha was taken to AIIMS Trauma Centre. He received over 20 stitches on his head.
Aashiq, who is the only person named in the FIR registered at Jaitpur police station, also allegedly took out R 6,000 cash from Kushwaha’s pocket.
“Aashiq was arrested. A case under sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) of the IPC was registered. The matter is being investigated,” said a senior police official.
However, Aashiq’s father, Rajendra Kumar, told HT that his son beat Kushwaha on the orders of the store owner Aashiq worked for. “My son is at fault. But he was only following orders. The store owner told him to beat Kushwaha,” said Kumar.
The store owner denied the allegations and claimed that he did not beat Kushwaha and nor has Aashiq ever worked with him.
“Kushwaha has not mentioned the store owner’s name in the FIR. Only Aashiq’s was named and we have arrested him,” a police officer said.