“I think their ego was hurt. But now they have succeeded in setting an example so that police officials won’t dare touch them again,” said 37-year-old Town Inspector Zia-ul-Haque, who has been on the run since the arrest of zila pracharak Suresh Yadav from the RSS office in Baihar town of Balaghat district on September 25. Haque, since suspended, was in-charge of the Baihar police station. Accused of beating Yadav at the RSS office and in custody, he and seven other police officials have been charged with attempt to murder, rioting, criminal intimidation and robbery.
Nearly 90 per cent of the staff at the police station was Hindu, but it was his religion that got highlighted, Haque said, speaking to The Indian Express from an undisclosed location. Given his religion, he had got used to observing caution while dealing with communal situations over the years, he added. He had once been accused of supporting a Muslim candidate in a local poll, Haque said.
On September 24 and 25, Muslims came to the Baihar police station complaining about an “anti-Islam” WhatsApp message by Yadav. A cautious Haque spoke to the superintendent of police before proceeding towards the RSS office. Additional SP Rajesh Sharma led the team. The claim that police were accompanied by Muslim complainants was a lie, he said.
Pained at the charge that he kept assaulting Yadav, who repeatedly fell unconscious, Haque said, “The police team booked Yadav only after confiscating his mobile from which the WhatsApp message was sent.” Yadav’s first medical report did not speak of any serious injury at all, he said.
Haque recalled spending the night cowering in a room above the police station after it was surrounded by hundreds of slogan-shouting Hindu activists following Yadav’s arrest. They demanded that he be handed over to them, Haque said, called him names and said he should be sent to Pakistan.
Lashing out at his seniors for “deserting” them, Haque, who joined the police force in 2007, said, “The police department did not stand by us while ministers called on Yadav… I don’t have faith in the Special Investigating Team (which is probing the incident) or the police force.”
The RSS leader, who is admitted in Jabalpur Hospital since the alleged beating, has been visited by three ministers, including Home Minister Bhupendra Singh. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was abroad when the incident happened, praised RSS pracharaks following the episode, calling them epitome of sacrifice.
Even after the row broke out, Haque said, he thought the worst that would happen was he would get suspended. “I never thought I would have to go through something like this.”