Just before midnight on August 9, Aaditya Chouhan says, he was taken by police from lock-up at the Nanpur Police Station in tribal-dominated Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh, to a room on the premises. There, police reportedly tied the 18-year-old’s hands and legs, suspended him between two tables using a thick rod, and took turns beating him up using pipes, rods and belts.
Sometime later, when he asked for water, one of the policemen urinated in a bottle and made him drink it, Chouhan alleges. “I threw up immediately,” says the son of Alirajpur block Congress president Kailash Chouhan, who spent nearly a week at Alirajpur District Hospital before he was discharged on Thursday. Also hospitalised were four other tribal youths, including a minor, who were allegedly also beaten up by police for nearly one-and-a-half hours.
They included Aaditya’s elder brother Vikas, 19; two cousins Yashwant Chouhan, 20, and Rahul Chouhan, 18; and a minor, who is in Class 10. The five had injuries all over their bodies, while three suffered fractures in their hands and legs. On Saturday, Vikas and Aaditya’s family took them to Dahod for further tests to rule out head injuries.
Sub-Divisional Police Officer R C Bhaskar, who is heading a probe into the alleged torture, said CCTV footage at the police station and the medical examination confirmed that the five had been assaulted. However, he said, no evidence had been found so far to support the allegation that at least one of the youngsters was made to drink urine.
The youths had been arrested a few hours earlier, on the charge of assaulting police station in-charge Dinesh Chongad and constable Rahul, who were at the time in plain clothes. The five say they had gone to see the release of water from a nearby dam when they had a scuffle with Sandeep Chandrasingh, a youngster, who had allegedly teased the sister of one of them.
Aaditya’s elder brother Vikas, 19, allgedly held Sandeep by the collar. Sandeep approached police, and when Chongad and Rahul confronted Vikas, the others intervened thinking the two policemen were Sandeep’s friends. Two other constables in uniform, who were nearby, rushed in to help their senior.
Vikas, who has cleared first year at an Indore college, says what followed was a nightmare. “I did not know they were police officials because they were in T-shirts. When I started apologising, Chongad said, ‘Police ko maaroge (You will hit police)?’, before taking us to the police station. There, we were subjected to torture of the kind I have not seen even in films.” He claims one of the police officials wanted to staple his penis, but that his colleague stopped him.
Yashwant, who is set to enter his second year at M S University in Vadodara, Gujarat, says that all through, the policemen kept drinking. “They would finish a peg and thrash us again. They banged the head of (the minor) against the wall. They tortured us as if we had committed murder. They also accused us of tearing their vardi (uniform), though they had not been wearing one.” He says he was also suspended like Aaditya, and then asked to urinate. “I would have ended up soiling myself had I done so.”
The five youths say they spent a horrific night at the police station, scared the officials would return to torture them.
After their family members, who came to meet them the next day, realised what had happened and lodged a complaint of torture, senior officials rushed to the police station. Once the officers had gone through the CCTV footage at the station, Chongad and the three constables who were allegedly involved were placed under suspension and a departmental inquiry initiated, while the youths were taken to the district hospital.
The five identified eight police officials, from the CCTV footage, as having tortured them.
Police officer Bhaskar, who has submitted his probe report, said the guilty officials needed to be punished strongly. The departmental inquiry will take a month or so.
Alirajpur SP Vipul Shrivastava too said it had been proved that the five youths were beaten up in custody, though there was no CCTV in the room where the alleged torture took place. He also said the youngsters had beaten up Chongad, but admitted that the police officer was in civil clothes at the time.
Kailash Chouhan says he can’t understand why police had beaten up his sons, adding that he didn’t have any rivalry that could have led to this. His links with the district Congress president are believed to have spurred action against the police officials.
The youngsters, who are equally puzzled, say there were hundreds of onlookers when the scuffle with police took place, and while they may have pushed Chongad around in the heat of the moment, they drew back immediately when they realised he was a police officer. They also said that before August 9, they had never been to a police station.
Having borne hours of beating, Vikas says their worst moment came when the policemen “abused” their family members who had come to give them food. “I cried when they insulted my family,” he says.