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Dalits demand release of children jailed during April 2 ‘Bharat Bandh’

Dalit leader Dr Sushil Gautam, president of the Democratic Students’ Front, said they would raise their voice against “police atrocity”.

lucknow Updated: Jun 30, 2018 21:09 IST
S Raju
S Raju
Hindustan Times, Meerut
Dalits,Underage,Juvenile
Superintendent of police (crime) Shivram Yadav said the charges of lodging underage children in the district jail were “baseless”.(Shutterstock/Representative image)

Dalits of Meerut region are planning a protest against their “underage children being sent to jail on charges of attacking police and participating in violence” during the April 2 ‘Bharat Bandh’.

Police have refuted the allegation, and said all minors arrested on April 2 were sent to juvenile home.

The bandh was called by Dalit organisations to protest against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act.

Dalit leader Dr Sushil Gautam, president of the Democratic Students’ Front, said they would raise their voice against “police atrocity”.

“We are demanding immediate release of our innocent children booked on April 2. We have details of at least eight boys who are underage and four who were sent to the district jail in gross violation of law. It is unfair of the police to have lodged these children with hardcore criminals, without first investigating about their age,” he said.

Citing the example of one such boy, Dr Gautam said, “He passed his high school exams this year, but was still lodged in the district jail.”

The boy’s father who works as a watchman in a private colony said, “His marksheet shows his date of birth as August 25, 2003. No one approached me to investigate before filing a charge sheet against my son. They made up his date of birth and sent him to the district jail instead of the juvenile justice court.”

The boy’s advocate, Ashok Kumar claimed the police refused to accept his Aadhaar card as age proof. “His bail application has been rejected twice. Now, the high court will hear the case on July 4. We have his high school markesheet, which we will submit as proof of his age,” he said.

In another case, a Class 6 student was booked under various charges on April 2. His father said the boy was lodged in the district jail for a day before being shifted to the juvenile home.

He alleged that the police picked him up after inquiring about his caste and accused him of carrying a country-made pistol.

The boy’s grandfather said, “Neither I nor my father have ever seen a country-made pistol. How can a child aged 12 years carry and use it?”

Although the boy was released on bail on June 8, he has to appear before the court on given dates. “The police have spoiled my son’s chances of a good career, for no fault of his,” lamented his father.

Dr Gautam said that both the boys resided in Kaliagarhi locality. “There are a few more children of adjacent localities who are still in jail,” he claimed.

Superintendent of police (crime) Shivram Yadav said that the crime branch was investigating the cases lodged on April 2, and said the charges of lodging underage children in the district jail were “baseless”.

“All minors arrested on April 2 were sent to the juvenile home. Only one (the first boy mentioned above) is in the district jail because as per our record, he is over 18 years. If his family has his age proof, they should provide it to us, so that we can present it to the court. Else, they themselves can apprise the court about such evidence,” said Yadav.

The issue is also being taken up by the Bhim Army, a Dalit outfit whose officials have called on the families of the imprisoned children.

Bhim Army’s Saharanpur district president Kamal Walia claimed that three children are lodged in the Muzaffarnagar jail too. He said he and other officials of the organisation had met the families of the jailed children in Meerut and Muzaffarnagar.

“A legal battle will be carried out to ensure their release. If that fails to bring relief, the future course of action will be decided,” he said.

First Published: Jun 30, 2018 21:08 IST