7 held for assaulting Dalit men in Rajasthan; Cong, BJP trade barbs
In the videos, the manager and six other employees of the service centre can be seen thrashing the two with rubber fan belts and then pinning down one of them.Updated: Feb 21, 2020, 00:12 IST
Seven people were arrested on charges of torturing two young Dalit men for allegedly stealing ₹50,000 from a motorcycle service centre in Rajasthan’s Nagaur district on February 16, the police said on Thursday, a day after videos of their ordeal went viral on social media.
In the videos, the manager and six other employees of the service centre can be seen thrashing the two with rubber fan belts and then pinning down one of them. One of them is then stripped and violated with a screw driver laced with petrol. One of the accused filmed the torture on his mobile phone.
On Wednesday, the police booked Hanuman Singh (39), Bhim Singh (43), Chel Singh (42), Raghuveer Singh (19), Rahmat Ullah (19) and Chatar Singh (21) and one more person under section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), section 342 (wrongful confinement), section 143 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code and different sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The case took a political turn on Thursday after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked chief minister Ashok Gehlot to take strict action against the men and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed the incident a reflection of the worsening law and order situation in the state.
Deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot too weighed in, saying the incident was serious and that the state government must ensure that every citizen feels safe and secure.
At about 2 p.m. on February 16, an agricultural labourer, 24, and his cousin, 18, went to Om Automobile in Karnu Village, about 60 km away from Nagaur town, to get their motorcycle serviced. The labourer went inside the service station while his cousin waited outside the shop.
“As I was coming out of the shop, I was pushed towards the billing counter by Bhim Singh, who is an employee at the service station. I was accused of stealing money kept in the locker. Though I denied the allegation, they started beating me,” said the labourer.
In the First Information Report (FIR), he claimed that he was tortured. “First, they tied my hands with ropes and then they beat me with rubber belts for the next 15-20 minutes.”
The report added that one of the men then suggested violating him with a screwdriver.
Hanuman Singh, the service station manager, was the alleged perpetrator-in-chief of the torture. “He first dipped the screw driver in petrol and then inserted it into me. I was in terrible pain and was lying helplessly on the ground for almost an hour,” the labourer said in his complaint.
Hearing his cries, his cousin rushed inside only to be accused of being an accomplice. “He was also tied with a rope to an iron pillar and beaten up,” the FIR said.
Hanuman Singh reportedly called the elder brother of the labourer and demanded ₹5,100 for his release. “I was released only after my elder brother paid up ₹Rs 5,100,” said the 24-year-old.
After their release, the cousins went to the government hospital in Tantwas, four kilometres from Karnu village, for treatment. “We didn’t approach the police for fear of backlash from the upper caste men who had tortured us,” said the agricultural labourer.
Hanuman Singh lodged an FIR claiming that two men came to the service centre on February 16 during lunch. “While the 24-year-old waited on the bike outside, the 18-year-old came inside and stole ₹50,000. After I found the locker of the drawer was broken, I looked at the CCTV footage and found that a man had stolen the money. We looked for the man and found him in the marketplace. We brought him to the service centre to unearth the truth,” he claimed in the FIR.
Superintendent of police (SP), Nagaur, Vikas Pathak, said that no money had been recovered from the two Dalit men . “We are investigating the allegations made by Hanuman Singh,” he said.