Lying on a charpoy, her bandaged hand on display, Kamlabai Mewada is on a fast. A victim of alleged police brutality, the elderly woman has refused to eat until Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan visits her with a promise to release her son and four grandsons from jail. The five were taken into custody along with dozens of other villagers on Friday as security personnel chased protesters blocking the Bhopal-Indore highway and set fire to vehicles as part of farmers’ protests. Some reportedly tried to take shelter in a home located just off the highway, which belonged to Kamlabai, who family members insist is in her 80s.
“They dragged my son and grandsons and beat me and my husband,’’ the woman alleged two days ago but refused to narrate her ordeal in detail on Monday because her associates said she would not to speak to anyone until the CM arrived. “My son and grandsons are innocent,’’ was the only thing she said on Monday. Incidentally, Chouhan broke his fast on live television on Sunday in Bhopal, 30 km from here.
An image carried by Patrika, a Hindi newspaper, on Saturday showed the woman surrounded by three security personnel who appeared to beat her up. The image went viral but, if the police are to be believed, is misleading. Senior government and police officials visited her to convince her to get her wounds examined and allow them to file a complaint but she and her associates refused. They had taken her to the CM’s fasting venue on Saturday but police foiled their attempt. “Since then the police are keeping a close watch on us,’’ said Gopal Singh, the youngest of Kamlabai’s sons. The police were indeed monitoring the house and highway because the CM was scheduled to attend an event in nearby Bairagarh.
“She may have suffered bruises but she was definitely not beaten,’’ claimed Khajuri inspector Sooryakant Awasthi. Asked about the plaster, he claimed the police had learnt from doctors that she had scratches, not a fracture, but insisted on a bandage. Shashikala Yadav, a retired constable who owns land nearby, assumed the role of the main associate on Monday. “Tell them that you will set yourself ablaze if they do not leave immediately,’’ the 55-year-old told Kamlabai’s husband Shivcharan, who relatives claimed could be 100 or 110 years old. The couple reportedly owns five acres adjacent to the house.
“We had no choice but to retreat,’’ said ASI Prabha Sharma later. Why should we undergo examination? What if the police manipulate reports? We will agree only if the CM comes here,’’ Yadav said, directing the blame for mistreating Kamlabai to Awasthi, who in turn alleged that she was trying to settle scores with him for not listening to her when her land was to be assessed.
ASI Hitendra Singh Jat said two of the four FIRs lodged about disturbances on June 9 near Fanda toll booth named Kamladevi’s relatives among the 40 accused. All of them are in judicial custody.