Even as the accused Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker Pravesh Shukla – who was caught on camera urinating on a tribal man identified as Dashmat Rawat in Kubri village in Madhya Pradesh's Sidhi district – was arrested on Tuesday night, 4 July, the victim is still 'terrified' to talk about the incident, police sources told The Quint.
"He was still terrified when he was brought to the Bahari police station (under which Kubri village falls) on Tuesday (4 July) evening. He is a simple and poor man. That's probably why he is still not acknowledging having gone through it all. The police are reassuring him of his safety and security but it's an uphill task."Police sources
The fear of coming forward to talk about the incident is, however, not limited to Dashmat. Locals and individuals who were witnesses to the incident told The Quint that though it happened several months ago, they were afraid to bring it up.
"I was too afraid to come forward or share the video with anyone," said Kubri resident Raman (name changed to protect identity) who claimed to have shot the video which shows Pravesh Shukla – who is allegedly the representative of BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla – purportedly urinating on Dashmat.
Raman told The Quint that he was forced to shoot the video by the accused Pravesh himself.
"I shot the video after I was harassed and thrashed by Shukla. He told me to shoot the video and then transferred it to his phone. I was too afraid to come forward. It was only around 10 days back that I shared it with a friend (Adarsh Shukla) and then it went viral. I am still afraid of what will happen to me."Raman
The Madhya Pradesh Police lodged an FIR against the accused under sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and also invoked provisions of the National Security Act (NSA) before arresting Shukla late on Tuesday night.
A Failed Attempt To Cover Up the Incident?
Local sources alleged to The Quint that several attempts were made to conceal the incident. They claimed that the victim was even forced to file an affidavit saying the video was fabricated.
"Several attempts were made to conceal the incident. First, the person who shot the video was thrashed and threatened. Then, the accused was asked to flee the district. A missing person's report was also filed by his family. While he was absconding, Shukla's relatives and BJP leaders pressed Dashmat to sign an affidavit saying that the video is fabricated."A local source
In the affidavit, accessed by The Quint, Dashmat said, "I swear that the video of me and Pravesh Shukla from Kubri village in a state of intoxication is being made viral by Adarsh Shukla and his other associates and that the video is false and fake. No such act has been done by Pravesh Shukla."
However, local sources, including Raman, told The Quint that Dashmat was pressed to sign the affidavit by BJP leaders and that it hasn't been submitted to any official.
"He is a daily wage worker, he can't afford to cross these politicians. He did what he was told. The local leaders compelled him to sign the affidavit saying that the incident is fake. But just see the video; was he not urinated upon by Shukla?"A local source
Another source added that since both the accused and the victim hail from Kubri village – and the victim belongs to a "minority class" – his family didn't have the courage to lodge a complaint over the incident.
Tribal Leaders Condemn Incident
Speaking to The Quint, Hiralal Alawa, a tribal leader and Congress MLA, condemned the act and accused the BJP of propagating "casteist indifference."
"This is not the first incident of atrocity against tribals in Madhya Pradesh. These BJP leaders make tall claims of being pro-Adivasi, but in their hearts, they are as casteist as one could be. With the protection of BJP MLAs, tribals are targeted throughout Madhya Pradesh, and this time, it will reflect in our votes."
Alawa, who is also a leader of the tribal outfit Jay Adivasi Yuva Shakti, further said that the organisation would submit a memorandum to the administration and leaders, demanding the strictest punishment to Shukla.
Another tribal activist and advocate, Suneel Adivasi, said that this is "a matter of shame for the government."
"Those who have been in power for almost two decades failed to ensure the safety of the tribals in Madhya Pradesh. This is a matter of shame and disgrace for the BJP. Before this, tribals were killed in Nemawar, they were lynched in Seoni over suspicion of carrying cow meat, and another tribal man was tied to a vehicle and dragged by upper-class men in Neemuch. This is not an isolated incident. This government and Shivraj Singh Chouhan have failed tribals repeatedly."
Former chief minister Kamal Nath took to Twitter, and said: "Today my heart is deeply saddened by the incidents of humiliation of the tribal brothers and sisters of Madhya Pradesh. The soul trembles after seeing the video of a BJP leader urinating on a tribal youth in Sidhi district. Has the intoxication of power hit the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party to such an extent that they are not considering human beings as human beings? This incident is an attack on tribal identity."
Nath further said, "I warn the Shivraj government to stop giving government protection to those who commit atrocities on the tribals."
Chief Minister Chouhan, on the other hand, said that the action taken against the accused will serve as an example.
"A criminal is only a criminal, he does not have any caste, religion, or party. I have given instructions regarding the Sidhi case; the accused will be punished in such a way that it becomes an example. We will not leave him at any cost."