Amid allegations of police brutality and torture, a Shimla court on Friday rejected the bail pleas of six Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists, who are in jail following violent clashes with the police outside Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday. The activists, including SFI state president Puneet Dhanta, were arrested on charges of rioting and lawlessness.
They were protesting against decisions, including a fee hike, taken by the Himachal Pradesh University and the state government.
Outside prison, SFI activists who were part of the protest allege they were beaten up and tortured at the police station. One of the activists, Pallavi, who sustained injuries to her face, has sought shelter with a local family fearing arrest. Another activist, Lokinder Kumar, showed torture marks all over his body and said he can’t walk, sit or eat properly. Kumar, who has also been named in the FIR, had an additional charge added against him for allegedly escaping from police custody from the local hospital, where he was taken for a medical test.
SFI national president Dr V Sivadasan, who was also injured, is being treated in New Delhi. He was granted bail on Friday. Rama Kant Mishra, CPM’s 62-year old office secretary, said he too was treated in an “inhuman manner” at the police station along with other SFI activists.
Mishra says he was was not part of the agitation, but was rounded up from the CPM state office along with other SFI activists. He was in the office after addressing the SFI rally, and was planning to return to Delhi, when he was picked up.
Mishra said, “I pleaded with them not to beat me up as I am a heart patient. Three-four people pounced on me with lathis. They hurled abuses when I asked if they were carrying search warrants to enter the CPM office. They treated us worse than animals.”
“Sivadasan was stripped naked, kicked repeatedly by policemen. I saw lying on the floor, being beaten non-stop.”
Kumar, too, recounted a similar experience. “I was saving some women activists during the lathi charge. At one point, I felt I might die, so I raised up my hands and surrendered. But they showed no sympathy and thrashed me.”
SP, Shimla, D W Negi said, “I won’t deny that some SFI activists, who were taken to the police station, may have been dealt with sternly. After all, they were not taken there to be worshipped or rewarded for creating lawlessness .”
He said the policemen were agitated as the SFI leaders, including Dhanta and the five others who were denied bail, were responsible for the violence. He claimed a woman constable was hit by a stone at her face during the protest. “Twenty-odd policemen and officers were also hurt. Now please ask SFI leaders, why did they carry lathis and stones to the protest. Was this civilised behavior, and doesn’t this require lawful action?” he said.
Negi added, “Video footage and visuals will prove that SFI started the violence and the police had no option. They first used water cannons and then resorted to lathi charge to disperse the mob. I was present and tried to pacify our boys but the situation took an ugly turn.”
The CPM has submitted a memorandum to Governor Kalyan Singh seeking a judicial probe into the police raiding the party office. “It’s unheard of in India that the state government sends the police force to the office of political opponents, breaking doors and furniture and dragging everyone to the police station. If the students’ wing had held a protest… is this manner to treat a political party?” said Tikender Panwar, Shimla’s deputy mayor and member of the CPM state secretariat.
The CPM has given a call for a rally outside Vidhan Sabha on March 31.