A 44-year-old man died in Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh region after he was allegedly assaulted by the local civic body officials for raising objection to their photographing women defecating in the open. The deceased, Zafar Hussain, was a CPI (ML) member and an activist. Recalling her ordeal, his wife Rashida Bi said the officials had threatened her daughter. “They threatened my 14-year-old daughter, said they’ll burn her father, break my face,” a wailing Rashida was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times newspaper.
Sabra, the younger of Zafar’s two daughters, said her father was trying to protect them by objecting to the officials’ action. “It was about 6:30 am and we had gone for latrine [to relieve ourselves] there when the car of municipal officials came. They started clicking our photos, abusing us and kicking our water mugs. Abba came out and told them to stop after which they started beating him,” said Sabra.
She also said a sweeper at the municipality, known as Kamal, was battering her father’s head with a stone. “The commissioner, who was sitting in the car, egged him on. ‘Maaro, maaro, jaan se khatam kar do’,” said the daughter, who studies in Class 10.
The mother and daughter were among the women who were being photographed by civic officials. According to police, an FIR has been lodged against Nagar Parishad Commissioner Ashok Jain and municipal employees Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan and Manish Harijan following a complaint by the family of Hussain. However, the local civic body chief has denied the charges.
Dismissing the official’s denial, the eyewitnesses said they saw the alleged attack against Zafar. “I was returning from there after taking a dump,” Durga Shankar, a 16-year old standing at the spot, said, adding that he saw a red-haired man [Kamal] punching Zaffar in the stomach. Another woman said Zafar had come out running to the spot after the women made noise. “The officials had been coming since four days and clicking our photos and telling us to use the community toilet,” she said.
According to villagers, Zafar had been petitioning the municipal councillor to release money for the construction of toilets in the homes.
Reflecting on the incident, Pratapgarh SP Shivraj Meena had told the Indian Express that 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.
Subsequently, the CPI (ML) shared an undated letter that was apparently 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”.