Madhya Pradesh CM apologises to tribal victim after row over urination case
Chouhan shared a video on his Twitter handle where he is seen washing Rawat’s feet in a gesture of respect
Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday apologised to and washed the feet of the tribal labourer who was urinated upon by another man in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district, a day after opposition parties and tribal bodies held massive protests across the poll-bound state.
In a viral video that surfaced on Tuesday -- the event dates back to 2020 -- 30-year-old Pravesh Shukla was seen smoking a cigarette while urinating on Dashmat Rawat, a Kol tribal from Sidhi, who was sitting on the ground. The video triggered a political row in the state where elections are due later this year. Shukla, whom the opposition claimed had links to the Bharatiya Janata Party, was arrested under the stringent National Security Act on Wednesday, and hours later local authorities demolished a portion of his house claiming it was “constructed illegally”.
Early on Thursday, Chouhan shared a video on his Twitter handle where he is seen washing Rawat’s feet in a gesture of respect.
“Saddened by this incident. I apologise to you. People like you are like God to me. The accused Pravesh Shukla will be punished in a way that it becomes an example for others. If needed, we will bury the criminals in the ground,” the post said.
Calling Rawat “Sudama”, referring to the childhood friend of Lord Krishna, the chief minister said: “You are my friend now... Dashmat ji, this is an attempt to share your pain, I also apologise to you, for me the public is God.”
Rawat said he was overwhelmed with the response from the CM. “I never hoped that I would ever get justice. I am happy that the CM called me and has punished the accused.”
Chouhan also talked to Rawat’s wife. “We are not greedy for money, send my husband home,” Reena Rawat said.
The incident sparked a political row, with the opposition Congress claiming the accused had a link with the BJP, a claim rejected by the ruling party and its Sidhi legislator Kedarnath Shukla.
Reacting to the video, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati questioned the “exhibition” by Chouhan and said it looked “less like remorse and more like theatrics”.
“The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh calling the victim of the urination incident in Sidhi district to Bhopal, about 600 kilometres away, and washing his feet in the CM House under a circle of cameras, seems less like government remorse and more like theatrics and politics of electoral interest. Is such an exhibition appropriate?” she tweeted.
Elections in Madhya Pradesh are due to be held by the end of the year.
State Congress committee president Kamal Nath termed the move a “drama”.
On Wednesday, Congress leaders from Vindhya region, former MLA Ajay Singh and MLA Kamleshwar Patel, sat on protest in front of the accused’s house demanding stringent action against him. A large number of tribal women, too, staged protests across the state on Wednesday night.
Political expert from Vindhya, Jayram Shukla, said the CM’s move seems like a damage control exercise keeping the upcoming polls in mind. “Every party is trying to take advantage of the situation. The BJP tried to control the damage but local BJP MLAs will definitely face voters’ ire .”
The BJP, which won 24 seats in the Vindhya region which has a total of 30 seats, in the 2018 elections, is trying to maintain its performance in 2023 assembly elections. The Congress, which managed to win only six seats last time, is trying to make inroads in the region.
Both the BJP and the Congress have been trying to woo the tribal community in the state ahead of the crucial assembly elections scheduled for later this year. The Kol community has the ability to influence the outcome in 15 of the 30 seats in the Vindhya region.
Madhya Pradesh has a poor record among all Indian states in terms of number of cases of atrocities against members of tribal communities. According to the 2021 NCRB report, Madhya Pradesh reported 2,627 cases of atrocities against tribals, 29% of the total cases reported in the country.
Meanwhile, the accused’s father Ramakant Shukla has demanded action against those who shot the video.
“They were asking for money when he refused, so they posted the video on social media,” he said.
Shukla has been booked under sections 294 (obscene acts), and 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
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