Caste Tensions in Chhattisgarh After Man Dies in Police Custody

Three police personnel related to the case have been suspended but no case has been registered, with a judicial enquiry still pending.

A 35-year-old man reportedly died in police custody in the Janjgir-Champa district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday. Satish Narange, a resident of the village of Sagarpara, died after he was taken to a hospital by the police, soon after he had been rounded up.

Three security personnel have been suspended following his death, PTI reported, based on allegations by his family that he had been beaten up by the station house officer and two constables. Ajay Yadav, the superintendent of police, said that Narange had been rounded up after an official at the electricity department complained that he had damaged some articles and made trouble at the electricity department office.

Yadav said that Narange had complained of uneasiness because of which he had been taken to a hospital in Pamgarh, where he was declared brought dead.

Narange’s family said that he had gone to the electricity sub-station with some other residents of the village to complain about the power supply which was erratic owing to a faulty transformer. They were allegedly told that the power will be fixed in its own time, the Indian Express reported. The latter had apparently called the thana-in-charge and began assaulting Narange. The assault continued at the police station, the family claimed.

Yadav has refuted the allegations and said that a postmortem for Narange has been ordered by three expert doctors to ascertain the exact cause of death. Furthermore, Yadav has asked for the appointment of a judicial officer to probe Narange’s death.

Narange’s death has heightened caste tensions in the village with some of the villagers taking up sticks and iron rods. The village, which is largely populated by Dalits, saw more than 200 people block the roads. They suspect that Narange might have been victimised on caste lines by the small population of upper-caste Thakurs in the village, given that one of the officials was a Thakur.

Protestors told the Indian Express, “Don’t even talk of compensation. We want nothing from them. Just justice. Bring those killers here, and we will deal with them. They think just because we are satnamis we will do nothing,”

The police claimed that the personnel involved have been suspended based on prima facie evidence. They did not however register a case because they were waiting for a judicial inquiry.
Chief minister Raman Singh announced Rs 1 lakh ex-gratia after the opposition were quick to demand justice on the issue.
(with PTI inputs)

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