Rajat Sharma

Karauli Killing,Kondagaon Rape: Insensitive Police

akb2908In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, I mentioned two horrific incidents, one from Rajasthan and the other from Chhattisgarh, to show how rot has crept into our police which is supposed to uphold the rule of law. In the Rajasthan incident, goons in a village in Karauli poured petrol on a priest and set him and his thatched hut on fire in order to grab temple land. The local police tried to portray this as a case of suicide by the priest. In the Chhattisgarh incident, seven persons gang-raped a tribal girl, the victim committed suicide, the rapists gave Rs 10,000 bribe to the local police officer for cover-up and the victim’s father drank poison after pleading for an FIR for three months.

These are clear instances of how police in the states are colluding with criminals. I have seen the video of the temple priest burnt alive by the goons. It is blood-curdling and is not fit for viewing on television. Fifty-year-old priest Babulal Vaishnav named one of the goons, Kailash Meena, as the mastermind of the attack on him in Bukna village, that took place on Wednesday. He succumbed to injuries the next day in SMS Hospital, Jaipur.

Police said, the dispute was over 15 bighas of land donated by the village panchayat to Radha Gopal temple. The priest had been living with his family in a thatched hut near the temple. He had been growing crops on the land for the last several years. The murder triggered protests from the Brahmin community in Rajasthan and the ruling Congress and BJP traded charges against each other.

In his dying statement, the priest named Kailash Meena and five others for setting him and his hut on fire. Initially, police tried to downplay the incident by saying that the priest had set himself on fire, but after the video of the incident went viral, the state government had to intervene. The priest’s family has demanded Rs 50 lakhs as compensation and a government job to one of the family members. So far, two accused, including Kailash Meena, have been arrested.

I have seen Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s tweet in which he has condemned the incident and has promised action against the accused. Gehlot tweeted: “The Rajasthan government is with the grieving family. ..The guilty will not be spared.”

The question is not what action will be taken. The issue is about the law and order condition prevailing in the villages of Rajasthan. Had the media not highlighted the heinous crime, the local police would have done an elaborate cover-up, blaming the incident on the priest. The investigating officer had almost prepared his report saying that the priest had set himself on fire. Had the media not exposed collusion of the investigating officer with the killers, the priest’s family would never have got justice. The killers would have been roaming freely.

My appeal to the police is: please be sensitive in matters relating to atrocities. This is not a single incident. There are hundreds of cases where the poor and downtrodden have been denied justice by the police.

In Chhattisgarh, a minor tribal girl committed suicide after she was gang-raped by seven persons in Kondagaon district three months ago. Her father pleaded to police officers for filing an FIR, but the local police did not help. Out of frustration, the victim’s father drank poison. The news hit the headlines in local media and the state police sat up and took notice. The body of the girl was exhumed for post mortem.

I sent our reporter Anurag Amitabh to this Maoist-infested area to probe the matter in detail. He found that the local police inspector took Rs 10,000 bribe from the rapists and refused to register an FIR. The accused were let off. The police inspector who took the bribe from the accused has been suspended. Police have arrested six persons in this case.

This incident clearly shows the difficulties poor people face in getting justice. Mere suspension of a police officer for taking bribe from rapists and refusing to file FIR for gang-rape, is highly unfair. This is nothing short of complete erosion of trust that the poor have in our legal system. Our reporter spent twelve hours among the villagers and took the statements of witnesses who were present when the rapists bribed the police inspector.

My question is: What will the police achieve now after wasting time for three months? Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel must intervene and ensure that drastic action is taken against the corrupt policemen and the rapists, otherwise the courts will have to intervene, as the Allahabad High Court did in the Hathras gang-rape case.

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