The group of men in plainclothes, seen restraining and flogging at least four men held against an electricity pole, one after the other, in video clips of the incident, have been identified as police personnel of the Local Crime Branch (LCB) unit of Kheda district in Gujarat.
Confirming this, police officials identified the person who is seen flogging the men as Police Inspector A V Parmar. Another person, seen removing the phones and wallets from the pockets of the men being beaten up, has been identified as Sub Inspector D B Kumavat. Parmar and Kumavat, who are both posted with the LCB unit in Kheda, did not respond to calls or text messages.
The police are yet to name the personnel seen in the video clips. When contacted, Director General of Police (DGP) Ashish Bhatia said: “We have ordered an inquiry into the policemen seen in the video. Action will be taken only after the inquiry”.
Deputy Superintendent of Police of Kapadvanj taluka, V N Solanki, has been given charge of the investigation. “I have been handed the probe today. I am yet to look into the details of the video clips,” he said.
Asked about Parmar and Kumavat, a senior police officer said: “We cannot deny that these are our men. They should not have taken the law in their hands.”
Sources said seven personnel from the LCB unit are under investigation. “Once the primary probe report is submitted, the officers will face the first disciplinary action. They will be asked to submit their version,” said an officer.
— VTV Gujarati News and Beyond (@VtvGujarati) October 4, 2022
The video clips, which surfaced on Tuesday, showed at least four men being held, one after the other, against an electricity pole at a chowk, by a group of men in plainclothes, and being flogged with a lathi by a man with a holstered gun on his belt. Those flogged are then seen folding their hands before a cheering crowd, before being directed by the men in plainclothes to get into a police van nearby.
The incident occurred in Undhela village of Matar taluka in Kheda district of Gujarat, allegedly after stone-pelting at a garba event on Monday night. While the men who were flogged and arrested, for allegedly disrupting the garba event, were not identified, the police confirmed that they were all from the Muslim community.
The village sarpanch, Indravadan Patel, had organised the garba outside a temple, which faces a mosque and also shares a wall with a madrasa.
The village, with a population of about 6,000, has an almost equal population of the two communities, both living in demarcated areas. On Thursday, when The Indian Express visited the village, most of the houses in the minority area were locked. A few members of the community, mostly women or the elderly, were seen, but most declined to speak on the incident.
“You should go and ask the sarpanch what happened that night. They have picked up men from our community under various charges and left us alone in such a vulnerable state… Who is responsible for our safety when the police are beating up our men without a proper probe,” said one of the women.
On the other side, Ravindra Patel, a resident, said: “The people of the village gathered at the chowk when they heard that the men who disrupted the garba had been caught. We asked the policemen to teach them a lesson. There are about eight men who always instigate others and threaten us. When the policemen beat them with their lathis, everyone cheered because it was a consolation for what we have been suffering. This is the first time, after so many years of facing intimidation, that we had got justice.”
“We are preparing an application demanding a police chowki in the village. Even before the garba, we had sought police protection because, for several decades, our community has been attacked while celebrating any festival in the chowk. This time, they (accused) did not even spare the policemen,” said Shailesh Solanki, a BJP member of the Matar taluka panchayat.
Nine persons, including some policemen, were reported to have been injured in the clash that followed the alleged stone-pelting. Thirteen of the 43 accused identified in the FIR have been arrested so far on charges including rioting and attempt to murder.
“We have never been able to hold any peaceful function at the village chowk… When they (the Muslim community) had a celebration at the same spot recently, our elders told us not to interrupt them… Why couldn’t we hold a garba night there,” said Akash Sisodia, a villager who is among those injured.
The Special Operations Group (SOG), Kheda, is investigating the FIR filed in connection with the alleged stone-pelting. “We are examining the evidence. Teams are on the lookout for the others accused. If we feel that the incident was premeditated, we will take action accordingly,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police, Nadiad, V R Bajpayee.
On Wednesday, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi had said that it was “some anti-social gang from the village” and “not any community” that tried to disrupt peace in the village.