In Affidavit to High Court, Kheda SP Defends Policemen Who Publicly Flogged Muslims

“...it is only with a view to maintain peace and harmony that the suspects were cornered,” the SP's affidavit says.

New Delhi: In his affidavit to the Gujarat high court, the Kheda superintendent of police Rajeshkumar Gadhiya has justified the actions of police officials who publicly flogged Muslim men in Undhela village in October 2022. “…it is only with a view to maintain peace and harmony that the suspects were cornered,” Indian Express quoted the SP’s affidavit as saying.

The flogging in Undhela village of Matar taluka in Kheda district happened after alleged stone-pelting at a Garba. The group of men in plainclothes, seen restraining and flogging four men in a viral video, were identified as officers of the Local Crime Branch (LCB) unit of Kheda district.

While the SP has defended the police action, an interim report by the deputy superintendent of police of Kapadvanj division had ruled that “as responsible police officers” the accused police personnel were required to “control the accused persons using other means and shift the accused to other safe place”, according to the Indian Express.

Following the incident in October, four individuals – Jahirmiya Malek (62), Maksudabanu Malek (45), Sahadmiya Malek (23), Sakilmiya Malek (24) and Shahidraja Malek (25) – filed a petition with the Gujarat high court against 15 police personnel – the inspector general (IG), the superintendent of police (SP), Kheda; 10 constables from the Matar police station; and three officers from the LCB. This is the case the Gujarat high court is hearing.

The petitioners have alleged that the Supreme Court’s directions in D.K. Basu versus the State of West Bengal, wherein the top court laid down basic “requirements” for the police to follow during arrest and detention until legal provisions are made, were violated. Alleging that by flogging the accused, the officers violated these requirements, the petitioners sought for the police personnel to be tried for contempt of court and also sought for compensation to be paid to the accused.

The policemen accused of being involved in the flogging have also filed two sets of affidavits, according to the Indian Express. One set has justified the flogging, saying the victims had criminal backgrounds and so it was necessary to protect law and order, and the other set has said the contempt of court petition is not maintainable as they were only acting within the scope of their duties.

Hetalben Rabari, police sub inspector (PSI) at Matar police station and one of the accused, has reportedly put in an an “unconditional apology” in her affidavit, while adding that “even if the allegations…are tilted to be correct, the same were resorted to only with a view to deal with the petitioners in an efficient manner and to control the law and order situation and further to prevent any kind of communal riots”.

Soon after the police violence, Gujarat home minister Harsh Sanghavi had praised those involved for doing a “nice job”.

As The Wire has reported, the Muslim residents of Undhela had boycotted the 2022 assembly polls to protest the alleged brutality. However, their protest went ignored by the administration and political parties.