A 44-year-old man died in Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh Friday after being allegedly assaulted by the local civic body chief and three other municipal council employees engaged in the Swachh Bharat campaign after he objected to them taking photographs of women defecating in the open, said police. “We have lodged an FIR under IPC section 302 (murder) against Nagar Parishad Commissioner Ashok Jain and municipal employees Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan and Manish Harijan following a complaint by the family of Zafar Hussain, 44, who died on Friday morning after an alleged assault by these government employees,” said Pratapgarh Station House Officer Mangi Lal Bishnoi. Jain has denied the charges.
The FIR was registered on a complaint filed by Hussain’s brother Nur Mohammad. “Some women… were defecating in open today at around 6-6:30 am near our Kuttchi Basti Mehtab Shah colony, when the Nagar Parishad commissioner’s car reached the spot, along with Kamal, Ritesh and Manish and others. The men started taking photographs of the women,” the complaint stated.
“My brother Zafar… asked them not to click photographs but the men started assaulting him with lathis, and punched and kicked him. He fell and died on the spot. All the people present at the spot, including the women, can identify the men who killed my brother,” it said.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Jain denied the allegations. “As part of the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, we go around in the mornings to prevent people from defecating in the open and spread awareness. Today, we parked our car and were informing people about the ills of open defecation when a man rushed towards us, and started hitting and abusing our employees,” Jain alleged.
“He went home and we continued with our campaign. However, when we went to the station to lodge a complaint, we came to know of his death. We did not click any objectionable photographs nor did we assault him. He was fine when he left,” Jain claimed.
Based on Jain’s complaint, an FIR was lodged against Zafar at the Pratapgarh station under IPC sections 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of duty).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pratapgarh SP Shivraj Meena said there was “heated talk between Zafar and others” but that it was “unclear” what happened later. “We will be able to establish the cause of death only once the medical board submits its report,” said Meena.
The CPI (ML) later shared an undated letter purportedly written by Zafar in which he detailed the alleged harassment of women by parishad officials, including “running after women, taking away their water mugs and abusing them while they defecated”. In a statement, CPI (ML) said, “Comrade Zafar himself had submitted a memorandum to the Nagar Parishad. against the campaign of public shaming and bullying of women for defecating in the open.”