Stripping True Story: Anger, Humiliation and Trumped-up Charges
Stripping of Dalit family: It’s not about who stripped whom, it’s about how and why.
The Quint goes beyond the ‘who stripped whom’ aspect of the 7 October incident in Dankaur, UP when a Dalit family found itself on the receiving end of the law & order machinery.
Jaise wo nange ho sakte waise hi wo mujhe maarne ki koshish bhi kar sakte hai (Just as they were ready to get naked, they were ready to kill me too).
—Praveen Yadav, Station Officer, Dankaur
This was SO Dankaur, Praveen Yadav’s reply when The Quint asked him why he slapped an ‘attempt to murder’ charge against the male members of the Dalit family, that’s at the centre of a stripping controversy on 7 October.
Yadav even undid his shirt to show us an incongruously fresh scratch-mark on his chest. Later, he even sent this reporter a selfie (below) via Whatsapp.
When asked how members of a Dalit family could even attempt to murder a Station Officer, that too in his police station, Praveen Yadav said after a long pause, “Shukra manaiye aurto ko toh bail mil gayi, wo dono toh ab jail me hi rahenge (be thankful that at least the women got bail, the two [men] will now remain in jail).”
Conflicting Witness Reports
On 8 October, a video emerged of a Dalit family being stripped and dragged by police personnel at a market in Dankaur, Greater Noida, UP. The incident happened a day earlier when Sunil Gautam, the head of the Dalit family went to the police to register a robbery complaint. According to a few witnesses, the Dalit family, comprising two men and three women, stripped themselves of their clothing in protest when the police refused to register the FIR. Other witnesses tell a different tale (quotes below video).
Dawa lene jaa rahi thi. Maine dekha ki police wale inke kapade uttar rahe the, inhe maar rahe the. Main chah kar ke bhi inki madad nhi kar saki kyu police hume inke paas hi nahi jane de rahe the. (I was going to get medicines when I saw policemen stripping them of their clothes and beating them up. I wanted to help but the police didn’t let me go to them).— Harvati, Eyewitness
Yet another witness gave a completely different statement
Police ne teen mein se ek aurat ke kapade phade, protest me baki ke do aurto ne bhi apne kapade phad diye. Us samay waha koi bhi mahila police nahi thi. Aadmiyo ke upar ke kapade police ne phade the (Of the three women, the police stripped the clothes off one of them. Later, the other two women too stripped their clothing in protest. No woman cop was present when this incident occurred. The police also tore away the clothing of the men.)
That same day, the police arrested all five adult members of the family and sent them to jail along with their three children. One of them is two-and-a-half years old, the other is 13 months old and third, a mere two months old.
Dalit Family’s Testimony
According to the family, when Gautam went to the police to file the FIR, he was ill-treated and roughed up by the officers. Gautam informed the police that he and his brother were robbed at gun point, and that the robbers took away their bike and some cash.
The family says that the police initially refused to register the FIR because the accused is an upper caste man. Gautam’s sister-in-law, who was also present at the police station says that police started beating Gautam when he demanded the FIR be lodged.
Main police station mein maujood thi. Police humari baat nahi sun rahe the. Jab Sunil ne FIR darj karne ko kaha toh usse marne lage aur uski shirt phad di. Jab maine unhe rokne ki koshish ki toh police ne mera dupatta kheecha. (I was present at the police station. Police didn’t listen to us. When Sunil insisted on an FIR, then they started beating him. They pulled his shirt. When I tried to stop them, police pulled my dupattas.
—Babita, member of family to The Quint
Babita also added that there were no lady police officers present when they were arrested. She also added that she somehow survived in jail with her kids. Rita, who veiled herself while talking to this reporter, said:
Izzat sabke liye badi hoti hai. Chahe wo unche caste ka neeche caste ka. (Dignity is a big thing for everybody, whether they are from the upper caste or lower caste).
—Rita, member of family to The Quint
Praveen Yadav says that an FIR was registered upon Gautam’s complaint. He says a scuffle broke out between them because Gautam insisted that the police immediately arrest the accused, Mahavir.
The family has now demanded that Yadav be suspended. They feel that if he continues as the SO of Dankaur Police station, they might face further trouble.
‘Hum chain se tab tak nahi baithenge jab Praveen Yadav ko suspend nahi kiya jata. Haan, humne protest kiya, lekin matlab yeh nahi ki wo humari ghar ki aurto ke saath galat vyavahar kare. Kyu mahila police maujood nahi thi jab inhe arrest kiya ja raha tha? (We will not sit in peace till Praveen Yadav is suspended. He has no right to misbehave with the women of my family. Why was no woman cop was present when they were arrested?)
— Laxman Singh, member of family to The Quint
It seems clear then that this is what might have happened: in the scuffle that broke out between the police and members of the family, policemen ripped out the upper garments of the two men and woman. Burning up with anger and humiliation, the other members of the family removed their clothes in protest.
Issue Can’t Be About ‘Who Stripped Whom’ Alone
But can the issue itself be reduced to ‘who stripped whom?’
The UP government, on its official Twitter account quoted the Superintendent of Police, Noida as saying:
But a fact-finding team of the National Dalit Movement For Justice (NDMJ) has strongly condemned the police.
Media reports have reduced the issue, quite viciously, to the question of ‘who stripped whom’. It completely displaced the fact that a Dalit family was publicly humiliated by the police machinery, in the midst of an indifferent crowd.
The NDMJ plans to file a Public Interest Litigation at the Allahabad High Court against the Dankaur police officers. Meanwhile, BAMCEF, an organisation that safeguards the rights of Dalits, has submitted its report on the incident to the National Commission For Scheduled Castes, the National Human Commission of India and the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
The State Schedule Caste Commission and State Police covered the real issue because the State Government is run by Yadavs. The Dalit Family was humiliated in public by a police officer who is also a Yadav. Had the police acted on their complaint, such an incident wouldn’t have occurred.
—Naher Singh, Member BAMCEF
In spite of conflicting statements, one thing seems clear: by charging the two male members of the Dalit family with attempt to murder, the police has misused its position.
Since it’s a non-bailable offence and the minimum punishment is life imprisonment, it’s unlikely that Sunil Gautam and his brother will be out of jail for months to come.
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