With assembly elections barely months away in Chattisgarh, a video showing police brutally assaulting Congress general secretary Atal Srivastav and other party workers for taking part in a protest outside industries minister Amar Agarwal residence in Bilaspur is going viral in the state.
Congress leaders said that party members had gathered on Tuesday to protest against Agarwal, who is also the Bilaspur MLA, when they were attacked by the police on two separate occasions, with some leaders also alleging that party members were dragged out from within the Congress bhawan in the city. State party president Bhupesh Baghel has condemned the incident, saying that the Chhattisgarh government has displayed is dictatorial tendencies, and has called for a judicial enquiry.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Bilaspur Congress had organised a protest at the residence of Industries Minister Amar Agarwal, where they intended to throw garbage in his house in a symbolic protest against the state of cleanliness in the city, and also against comments made by the minister against the Congress.
Senior police officers told The Indian Express that these protests are usually symbolic, and that protesting parties are usually cooperative. “We had put barricades up. But on Tuesday afternoon, the Congress workers first broke through the barricades, and then scuffled with policemen. This was around 3:30 pm in the afternoon. Two policemen got minor injuries also. We registered an FIR based on these actions, and teams went outside Congress Bhavan to make the consequent arrests,” a senior police official said.
Chhattisgarh Police in Bilaspur hitting Congress workers with lathis. Police officials say that they were being arrested after they had broken barricades and scuffled with police during a protest. Man in the red kurta is party general secretary atul srivastav @IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/fMXCDNLkCz
— Dipankar Ghose (@dipankarghose31) September 18, 2018
Senior Congress leader and spokesperson RP Singh, however, said, “The scenes at the Congress bhawan were frightening. The police went in and pulled workers out, even women who were dragged. They kept assaulting workers. A senior leader Atal Srivastav was beaten on the head with a stick under no provocation. What rules say that even during a lathicharge attacks people on their heads and not below the waist? Everything is clear from the videos.”
One of the many videos circulating show Srivastava in a red kurta, being pushed into a crowded bus. Policemen, including ASP Neeraj Chandrakar, struck Srivastava on his head, and he falls to the ground. Despite this, several policemen can be seen kicking and raining lathi blows on Srivastav. Chhattisgarh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel has left for Bilaspur and has called for a judicial inquiry.
Baghel said, “This is how the Chhattisgarh government is trying to quell any dissent. This was brazen assault, and I demand a judicial enquiry.” Baghel left Raipur on Tuesday evening for Bilaspur to meet injured party workers.
While the police claim they did not enter the Congress bhawan, videos put out by the party on Twitter show policemen inside the congress bhawan, assaulting Congress workers and herd them outside.
Bilaspur Superintendent of Police Arif Sheikh said that no policemen had entered the Congress Bhawan. “They had gone to arrest members who had broken the law earlier in the day after an FIR was registered, but nobody entered the Bhawan. There was the use of minimal deterrent force,” he said.
रमन तेरी तानाशाही नहीं चलेगी- नहीं चलेगी।@drramansingh कार्यालय के अंदर घुसकर कांग्रेसी कार्यकर्ताओं को पीटना आपकी सत्ता के ताबूत की आखिरी कील साबित होगी।
इस हिटलरशाही और तानाशाही दोनों को उखाड़ फेंकेगी ये छत्तीसगढ़ की संघर्षवान जनता।
“रमन जब जन डरता है
पुलिस को आगे करता है” pic.twitter.com/sBSrEZSCTJ
— INC Chhattisgarh (@INCChhattisgarh) September 18, 2018
Sources in the Chhattisgarh Police, however, admitted that the lathicharge had “gone out of hand.” “These are very bad visuals. From what we have been told from the incident site. Srivastava dared police officers to act against him. And in that charged atmosphere, the ASP and the personnel around him attacked him. That definitely should not have been the response and I suspect action will be taken,” a senior Raipur based police official said.