Video Producer: Aparna Singh
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
According to the data of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) presented by the central government in Lok Sabha, UP has the highest number of custodial deaths in the country. In the last three years, about 24 percent of all custodial deaths across the country were reported in UP. But these are just statistics. In reality, many cases of custodial death never make it to the records.
One such death took place in Ghazipur, the last district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. On one night in January 2021, 42-year-old Narendra Paswan allegedly died due to police brutality in Sodhra village of Mardah police station, about 35 km from Ghazipur city.
On the night of 6 January, around 12 am, a police team led by Sub-inspector Ramesh Kumar allegedly raided the Paswan household to arrest Chandan, the younger brother of Narendra Paswan. Chandan, who was in jail for alleged battery theft, had just come out on bail.
As a police team entered their house, Leelavati Devi, mother of Narendra and Chandan, asked the cops, "My son just got out on bail today, why have you come to arrest him now?"
Pleading with the policemen, she said, "If he has done something wrong, we will bring him to the police station in the morning, and we will decide there."
But the cops did not pay any heed to Leelavati Devi's plea. Chandan's elder brother, Narendra, also pleaded with the inspector to let his brother be. The family alleges that the cops pushed aside Leelavati, and hit Narendra on the head so hard that he fell down. Narendra lost his consciousness, and his life later that night.
As the news of Narendra's death spread, villagers gathered and blocked the roads in the morning. After the demonstration, the police released Chandan.
The angry protesters blocked the highway, demanding justice for Narendra. The police tried to reach a compromise but the family did not agree and kept protesting with Narendra's body on the road. The family claims that the police forcefully took away the body, sent it for post-mortem, and it was cremated later at the ghat under the supervision of the police.
Family Alleges Police Covered Up Narendra's Death, Threatened Them
While Narendra's body was being cremated, preparations were on to cover up his death. Leelavati Devi alleges that the police got thumb impressions of her and many other people present there on a blank paper, and declared that Narendra died of cold.
Not only this, the police is also accused of continuously pressurising the victim's family by threatening to implicate Chandan in another case. The cops allegedly told the family that Chandan would not get a job anywhere if they kept pursuing the case.
According to the mother, Sub-inspector Ramesh Kumar offered to give Rs 5,000. She refused and said that they should either bring his son back or pay enough to take care of his children.
After this, senior officers from Ghazipur went to meet the family. At first, the official tried to pressurise by threatening, but when the family did not agree, they assured them of compensation of Rs 5,30,000. However, the family claims that they have not received any compensation till date.
A Year On Since the Alleged Crime, Family Yet To Get Justice
A year has passed but the family has not even seen the postmortem report of Narendra Paswan. On being asked, the cops reportedly told the family that they did not need any document. According to the mother of the deceased, she asked the police for the postmortem report of his son multiple times, but only got a counter question in response — "What will you do with it?"
The current SHO of Mardah police station said that doctor who did the postmortem of Narendra Paswan had preserved his viscera, which was sent for examination. Generally, the viscera is preserved only in cases of suspicious deaths. Despite this, there has been no FIR in the case of suspicious death of Narendra Paswan due to police action, which is a clear violation of the guidelines of the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission.
The question also arises: Why the viscera report has not come till today?
No Record of Raid Conducted at Narendra's House
There is not even an entry in the general diary, or the duty register of Mardah police station, of the raid conducted at the house of Narendra and Chandan on the night of 6 January 2021, which is a norm for any police action.
If any police officer from the police station goes out on patrol or for investigation, an entry must be recorded in the general diary of the police station.
Accused Cop Honoured For 'Excellent Service'
It is alleged that sub-inspector Ramesh Kumar had raided Chandan's house with constables on the instructions of the then police station in-charge Balwant Singh. Chandan's brother Narendra died due to the beating of SI Ramesh Kumar. But the cop, against whom action should have been taken by registering an FIR, was honoured by the Union Home Ministry for 'excellent service' on 15 August 2021.
This is not the first allegation of police brutality against Ramesh Kumar. Earlier in 2020, he even faced action after serious allegations surfaced against him following his assault on an Army jawan and his family while he was posted at the Nagsar police station in the district.
After outrage, Ramesh Kumar was suspended on the instructions of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself.
However, he was soon sent to Mardah police station, where he faced many allegations of hooliganism and misuse of uniform. But no action was taken. Even after the death of Narendra Paswan, and fingers pointing at him, no action was taken against Ramesh Kumar.
The Ghazipur incident is a living example of how police torture and custodial deaths are suppressed at the local level. Victims' families are too helpless to even muster the courage to speak out, and seek justice after a certain point.