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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Odisha: BJP joins protests, says CM should order probe into Dalit man’s ‘death in custody’

While police are awaiting a postmortem report to confirm the cause of death, the family has alleged that Kumbhar died due to police excesses while in custody at Bhatli police station.

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty | Bhubaneswar |
Updated: September 28, 2021 7:05:38 am
Protest at Bargarh, Odisha, on Monday following Kumbhar’s death. (Screengrab)

Opposition BJP on Monday joined protests by members of the Scheduled Caste community in Odisha’s Bargarh district following the death of a man from the community in what the family alleges is due to custodial violence.

Gobinda Kumbhar, 35, was allegedly picked up by police late Friday night in a case of rioting and was declared dead on Saturday.

While police are awaiting a postmortem report to confirm the cause of death, the family has alleged that Kumbhar died due to police excesses while in custody at Bhatli police station.

The matter took a political turn when opposition BJP protested against the incident on Monday and demanded a thorough investigation into the case. Calling it a grave incident that has shaken the conscience of the society, BJP MP from Bargarh, Suresh Pujari, urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to intervene in the case.

Calling the incident “Talibanisation of the police force”, Pujari, in a letter to the CM, wrote, “The circumstances leading to to the death of Gobinda Kumbhar and the apparent signs of injury on his body suggests criminal assaults bringing the instant case under Section 304 of Indian Penal Code.”

He wrote: “May I request your good office being in charge of the home department to kindly take serious note of the inhumane incident and direct the police to get a case registered, get the relevant document of the case, including CCTV footage at the relevant time, videography of the PM [postmortem] extracted and preserved safely from fabrication.”

Pujari also stated that the case must be investigated by an independent investigating agency.

Kumbhar’s father, Radheshyam, said, “My son was picked up by police in a purported case of rioting but we do not know details of the case. They said it [picking him up] was for basic questioning and that he would return in a few hours. When he did not return the next morning, we went to the police station. They informed us that he was unwell and taken to the hospital.”

At the hospital, Radheshyam said, “I was informed that my son was no more” after waiting for an hour or so.

The family subsequently protested — family members and others burnt tyres, demanding action against the policemen concerned.

On Sunday, Bargarh police relieved five personnel of duty: sub-inspectors Soumyakanta Baliarsingh and Mangal Kisko, assistant sub-inspector Pitambar Behera and Kshirodra Biswal, and home guard Gopabandhu Jagdala — all from Town police station. The five have been attached to the reserve.

Based on a petition filed by Kumbhar’s wife Rubi, Bargarh SP Rahul Jain has asked for an inquiry by the Human Rights Protection Cell. “It was unfortunate; a judicial inquiry will be conducted into the matter as per guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission,” the SP said. “We have also sought an inquiry by the Human Rights Protection Cell in Cuttack. The inquest procedure and the postmortem were videographed and the PM was conducted by a panel of doctors. The exact cause of death can only be known after the PM report is received.”

In an inquest report filed, it is stated that Kumbhar was taken to Bargarh district headquarters hospital (DHH) after health deteriorated, and was declared dead on arrival. The inquest report states that the cause of death is unknown and no injuries were found.

Meanwhile, a purported photograph of Kumbhar’s bare back has emerged on social media, which shows blackened marks and injuries. Police are probing the authenticity of the image.

“When the postmortem was conducted and the body was washed, there were no black marks, as the photograph suggests. There were no other visible injuries,” a senior police officer who is part of the investigation said.

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