Truck-owner and Congress worker Kapurchand Rajput was assaulted in Dantewada on Thursday by a team of adjunct policemen going by the description special police officers (SPOs).
This is an incident one can be dismissive about, given the limited reach of the arm of the law in India's hinterland, particularly in areas where things have turned messier due to Maoist activities. But there is something exceptional here: the man who led the assault, Kartam Surya, is working with the regular police force despite being a rape-accused and is "absconding" for more than a year.
The Dantewada district sessions court had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Surya in November 2009 after he allegedly raped a 23-year-old tribal girl at Samsetti village, 550 km south of Raipur. But police reported Surya was missing. A month later, the court declared him an absconder and issued a permanent arrest warrant against him.SPOs are villagers recruited by the government on a temporary basis, trained to use weapons and deployed to carry out combat operations against Maoists or separatist insurgents. They have often been accused of killing and injuring innocent civilians and extorting protection money.
Their role became even more controversial on March 16-17, when they, along with regular policemen, are alleged to have committed atrocities in Dantewada. They also heckled activist Swami Agnivesh when he had gone to inspect the situation.
Last week's incident shows that instead of running away, Surya managed to avoid arrest with the connivance of the police force, and continues to do his job of an appendage.
Senior police officers said they were not aware of the incident. "We will find out and suitable action will be taken," said Rajesh Mishra, inspector general of police (anti-Maoist operations).
Dornapal police station officer-in-charge Ramdhin Kurre said: "Surya stays separately in the barracks built adjacent to the police station." When contacted, Surya told HT: "The charge against me is a fabricated one."
This episode has shocked the legal fraternity.
"How can police take his services when he has been declared an absconder and the court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against him?" high court advocate Saurabh Dangi said.