September 11, 2021 2:22:22 am
A police sub-inspector and a constable in Junagadh district have been suspended from service after a video emerged of the two purportedly assaulting an army jawan.
The two policemen were suspended Thursday on the basis of findings of an enquiry ordered earlier in the incident, police officers maintained, but the orders of suspension came hours after ex-servicemen from Gujarat staged a protest outside the office of the Junagadh district superintendent of police. With this, the number of policemen suspended in connection with the case has gone up to four even as a local court in Junagadh has taken cognisance of the matter though no order has been passed as yet.
Naik Kanha Keshwala, a native of Padardi village in Junagadh district, was booked last month under the SC/ST Act for allegedly abusing a Dalit man and allegedly assaulting a police party in the village while he was home on leave.
According to an FIR registered at Bantva police station, Kanha’s cousin Ram Keshwala and one Jignasa had eloped and had married each other around two years ago.
On August 29, Kanha, Ram, Parbat Sagarka etc. wielding iron pipes in their hands, allegedly went to the house of Jignasa’s parents and had a verbal exchange with them. Consequently, Jignasa’s mother Jaya Makwana and Mansukh Musadiya, a Dalit leader from Padardi village, went to Bantva police station seeking police help.
Apprehending a threat to law and order in the village, Priti Zala, police sub-inspector (PSI) in-charge of Bantva police station and constables Rajesh Bandhiya and Chetan Makwana went to Padardi to diffuse tensions. However, Kanha, Ram, Jignasa and others allegedly abused and later assaulted PSI Zala and the two constables and also vandalised a police car. Musadiya tried to intervene but the accused assaulted and abused him too, police have said.
Subsequently, PSI Zala informed her higher-ups about the incident and soon, staff attached to neighbouring Manavadar and Vanthali police stations reached Padardi as reinforcement and rounded up of a few rioters, including Kanha. After detaining him, policemen allegedly beat up the Army naik with a baton as well as slapped him publicly in Padardi.
Based on a complaint filed by Musadiya, an FIR was registered against Kanha and eight others under various IPC sections including 379-A (attempt to commit snatching), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons) and 294-B (verbal abuse) on August 30.
Based on another complaint filed by PSI Zala, one more offence was registered against Kanha and 17 others under IPC Sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 186 (obstructing public servant from discharging official duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant who is discharging his/her duty), 337 (rash or negligent act endangering life of others), 379 (theft).
Kanha and six to seven persons were rounded up from Padardi village itself and were later formally arrested in the case of assaulting police, DJ Zala, circle police inspector of Manavadar said, adding action against the accused is yet to be taken in the atrocity case.
When produced in a local court on September 1, Kanha complained to the magistrate that he was beaten up by police while in custody. A purported video of the policemen beating Kanha also emerged on social media and Junagadh SP suspended constables Bandhiya and Makwana with effect from September 1. Following the emergence of the video, Maji Sainik Seva Foundation (MSSF), an organisation of retired servicemen, submitted a memorandum to the Junagadh SP on September 2, demanding action against policemen who had “beaten up” Kanha.
However, under the banner of MSSF, ex-servicemen of the state staged a dharna in front of the SP office in Junagadh on Thursday, claiming S N Kshatriya, a PSI posted at Vanthali police station and Jignesh Ravaiya, a constable attached to neighbouring Manavadar police station, had also beaten up the naik and therefore action be taken against them too.
“Our protest was not against (Kanha) Keshwala being hauled up as per procedure, but an in-service Army jawan being beaten up publicly in violation of due procedure and his human rights…,” Jitendra Nimavat, president of MSSF said. Hours later, the SP office released orders suspending PSI Kshatriya and constable Ravaiya. The suspension orders noted that the PSI and the constable were being suspended based on a video, which had gone viral on social media, showing the PSI and the constable beating up a man who had been named as an accused in a case registered by Bantva police station August 30.
Junagadh SP Ravi Teja Vasamsetty told The Indian Express that the PSI and the constables were suspended based on findings of an inquiry report. “The inquiry concluded that the concerned policemen had overreached and maramari kiya hain (have used force),” said the SP.
“Despite you being an employee of a disciplined police force…. it appears that you beat up the accused in question, ill-treated him,” the SP reasoned in the suspension order, Meanwhile, Kanha has claimed that he was wrongly implicated in the cases. “I was not even present at the crime scene,” he told The Indian Express over the phone from the military hospital in Jamnagar.
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