An assistant sub-inspector (ASI) and five others were booked for murder after a 40-year-old man, Gurmail Chand, a resident of Davida Ahrana village in Hoshiarpur district, died in police custody on Thursday.
Chand had been picked up by the Mehtiana police on Wednesday night in connection with a complaint lodged against him over a financial dispute.
The victim's brother, Surjit Singh, said, "Chand had taken an orchard on contract and Madan Lal had fixed the deal. My brother was being harassed for payment. A few days ago, Madan's son had threatened to kill him if he did not return the money."
Surjit claimed that Chand was taken to the Mehtiana police station around 8pm on Wednesday and his family was informed about his death on Thursday morning.
As the news of Chand's death reached the village, residents gathered on the Hoshiarpur-Phagwara road and started protesting against the police and the complainants.
Hundreds of protesters vandalised Madan's house and shop, alleging that it was at his behest that the police has taken away Chand and tortured him, eventually leading to his death.
Enraged protesters also demanded that Madan and his son be handed over to them. When this demand was not met, they started hurling stones and bricks.
Additional deputy commissioner (development) Harminder Singh and superintendent of police (SP, detective) Jagmohan Singh tried to pacify the villagers, but the latter refused to budge. It was only after an FIR was registered against ASI Balkar Singh, three other cops, Madan Lal and his son Ravinder Kumar that the blockade was lifted.
Officiating SSP Jagmohan Singh said Mehtiana SHO Karnail Singh had been sent to the police lines. He added that the officials concerned had denied torturing Chand and claimed that he had suffered a heart attack.
"A magisterial inquiry is in progress," he said, adding that the National Human Rights Commission had been informed about the custodial death.