Two Dalit youths were allegedly assaulted and tortured by some employees of a motorcycle service agency in Karnu village, under Panchodi police station area, in Nagaur district of Rajasthan. While police said the incident occurred on February 16, five persons were arrested on Wednesday and another two on Thursday after videos of the assault were circulated on social media.
In the videos, a group of men can be seen thrashing two persons with rubber belts. One of the victims is stripped and held down, and a screwdriver dipped in petrol is inserted into his anus. The accused can be heard laughing in the background.
Police said the victims were suspected to have stolen money. “The two youths, Bisha Ram (24) and Panna Ram (18) were allegedly trying to steal money from the cash register of the motorcycle agency. It was lunch time and most of the staff weren’t around,” said Panchaudi SHO Rajpal Singh.
In their complaint, the victims, who are cousins, said they had gone to the agency to get Bisha Ram’s motorcycle serviced on Sunday afternoon, around 2:30 pm.
“After giving the motorcycle, I was passing by the cash counter when Bheev Singh pushed and threw me,” Bisha Ram said in his complaint. Accusing him of theft, seven persons then assaulted him, he said. “They started beating me with a rubber fan belt, punched and kicked me. I apologised and asked them not to beat me,” he said.
Bisha Ram said he was then dragged further inside the service centre, where two men held his arms while one stood on his back. “Harman Singh took a cloth, dipped it in petrol with a screwdriver, and then inserted it in my private parts,” he said, adding that he also sustained eye injuries.
According to the complaint, the men also assaulted Panna Ram, hurled casteist abuses, and threatened to kill them if they told anyone about the incident. The two youths were allegedly held captive until a relative arrived.
Ravi Prakash, Additional Director General of Police, Civil Rights, said Bisha Ram’s brother, Durga Ram, was called to the service centre and made to pay Rs 5,100 as “fine”.
Bheev Singh and Harman Singh are among the seven employees who have been arrested.
The Panchaudi SHO said an FIR was filed on Wednesday after videos of the incident went viral. “Initially, both sides had reached a compromise and no complaint was lodged. But once the videos went viral, we received a complaint and lodged an FIR,” he said.
The FIR has been filed under IPC Sections 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 143 (unlawful assembly), 327 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort property, or to constrain to an illegal act), 355 (assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person), 384 (extortion) as well as Sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Meanwhile, the agency staff have filed a counter FIR, accusing the youths of theft. According to their complaint, Panna Ram waited outside while Bisha Ram stole Rs 50,000 from the cash register and fled, while the staff were eating lunch. After scanning CCTV footage, they went looking for the duo. They said they caught the youths and brought them to the service centre “to make them speak the truth”. The FIR has been lodged under IPC Section 380 (theft in dwelling house, etc).
“It was mob mentality. During questioning, they (the accused) said they were angry and hence went so far in punishing the alleged thieves,” said the SHO.
Saying that the incident shames humanity, Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal (Rashtriya Loktantrik Party) said he had sought strict action against the accused. On Thursday, all three of his party MLAs boycotted Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s Budget speech in the Assembly.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also tweeted: “The recent video of two young Dalit men being brutally tortured in Nagaur, Rajasthan, is horrific and sickening. I urge the state government to take immediate action to bring the perpetrators of this shocking crime to justice.”
Saying that “immediate and effective action has been taken”, Gehlot said: “Nobody will be spared. The culprits will be punished according to the law and we will ensure that the victims get justice.”
“The case of brutal beating of Dalit youths which took place in Nagaur district is serious. The law and order in the state should remain strong and every citizen should feel safe, this is the priority of the government. If anyone tries to take law and order into their hands, strict action will be taken against them,” tweeted Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot. He constituted a committee under Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Bhanwarlal Meghwal and asked it to file a report at the earliest.
While the BJP hit out at the state government for the “deteriorating” law and order situation, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad asked Gehlot to resign and called for a shutdown in the state on February 23.