An internal police inquiry has confirmed the claims of eight men of villages around Sircilla town that they were tortured in illegal custody for four days, between July 5 and July 8, before being brought before court. When they were taken to Karimnagar District Jail on July 8 after the court hearing, the prison superintendent refused to admit the eight men — three Dalits, others belonging to backward classes — given their condition. The inquiry is being conducted by a deputy inspector general.
Telangana Urban Development Minister K T Rama Rao, an MLA from Sircilla, who met the eight at a hospital on Thursday, said police had “overreacted”. “No one can deny that they were not beaten up badly,” Rao said.
On Thursday, based on a PIL by the Civil Liberties Council, the High Court directed the Telangana government to depute doctors from Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital at Warangal to examine the injuries of the eight men, and submit a report in a week. It also asked for a report from the Telangana Home Secretary.
The men, who were given bail on August 2 but told to stay put in Vemulawada, 25 km from home, were admitted to the hospital by BJP leader Bandi Sanjay. The eight include P Banaiah (Dalit), K Ganesh (BC), Kola Harish (Dalit), G Gopal (BC), C Srinivas (BC), P Ishwar Kumar (Dalit), B Mahesh (BC) and B Balraj (BC). Except for P Banaiah, an ex-sarpanch who faces several cases of extortion and alleged intimidation using the caste angle, none of the others has a criminal record.
Dr K Manohar, the owner of the hospital, said the victims were treated for bruises and swelling on the feet, buttocks, backs and calves. “They had already been treated at Karimnagar Government Hospital for nearly 15 days. All of them had difficulty walking when they were admitted,” he said.
Since family members of the men met them on July 9 and revealed their “three days of horror”, the Opposition has taken up the matter.
Sircilla Superintendent of Police K Viswajit doesn’t deny the “torture” or the internal probe, but adds, “I too came to know of it after they were produced in court.”
Sources said the internal probe also reveals that Crime Branch officials arrested the eight, and then tipped off their counterparts in Sircilla town and nearby areas, who arrived to beat them up. Crime Branch officials refused to speak saying only the SP will talk on the issue.
On July 2, a nearly 400-strong mob from villages of Nerala and Jillella on the outskirts of Sircilla had attacked two trucks carrying sand, following a previous incident involving sand trucks that had killed a villager. The villagers had also attacked the police team accompanying the trucks, trying to snatch their batons. A fire service vehicle that came to help was also attacked. The villagers have been protesting against the sand trucks due to the accidents involving those crossing the villages.
The Crime Branch rounded up the eight men from their homes on July 4 night for the attack on police, identifying them from videos of the incident. The villagers were taken to Sircilla B.Ed college, the temporary police headquarters. Soon, on apparently the Crime Branch’s tip-off, the policemen who had been beaten up by the mob on July 2 arrived.
As per the inquiry, “At least 16 constables and two sub-inspectors arrived at the first floor room where the eight men were being held, after which the team that arrested them left. For the next five hours, these constables and SIs took turns to allegedly beat up and brutalise the eight men.”
For three days, their family members went from one police station to another searching for them. “We went to many police stations but everywhere they told us to get lost. We met the SP (Vishwajit) and told him we were poor people who do daily labour to survive, but he was evasive. Later he told us they were arrested and would be produced in court at Vemulawada,” says P Rajitha, wife of P Ishwar Kumar.
Police told the Vemulawada court that the men had been arrested on July 7, on charges of attempt to murder and arson.
The eight say that during their time in custody, from the midnight of July 5 to July 8, they were beaten up at least twice daily, and often more. “They took turns beating us up for hours at a stretch. We were told they would ensure that we never protested again,” says one of the men, who refused to be identified. Before they were taken to court, he adds, they were forced to take painkiller tablets.
“We stood with constables holding us up and warning us not to say anything to the judge. They told us they had video proof and threatened to file cases under the Preventive Detention Act, which would put us in jail for a year. They also threatened to open rowdy sheets against us,” another says.
Confirming that he had turned away the eight when they were brought to the Karimnagar prison from the court, on the evening of July 8, Jail Superintendent Shiva Kumar Goud says, “It is standard procedure. If we find anyone unwell, we tell police it should be in the remand note or there should be a medical certificate as per NHRC norms. They looked very unwell and complained of pain, one of them had very high blood pressure and did not have any medicines. I told the police escort to take them back and bring them only with a medical fitness certificate. The next day, police came back with a certificate from the government hospital saying they were fine. We treated them at the jail clinic first, but the next day we sent them to Karimnagar Government Hospital, where they were kept for three-four days. For the next several days we kept sending one or the other to the hospital as they complained of pain in abdomen, buttocks, feet etc,” says Goud.