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Lakhimpur Kheri: “My brother kept pleading with them and repeatedly told them that he had not stolen the mobile phone, but the policemen thrashed him like an animal,” says Pooja.
She is the sister of a 16-year-old boy of the Tharu tribe who died, allegedly as a result of injuries sustained during police assault, in Kamalapuri village of Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh after having been accused of stealing the mobile phone of his uncle’s son.
“My brother told me about his ordeal after he returned home – the policemen had hit him at places he couldn’t even show me, out of shame. When his condition deteriorated, only then did police hand him over to our mother. He was crying when he came home and recounted how brutally they had assaulted him,” Pooja adds.
The teenager succumbed to his injuries on January 23. Members of his family filed a complaint against the policeman but no FIR has been registered yet. One outpost in-charge and two constables have been suspended.
The Kamalapuri village is under the jurisdiction of the Khajuria police station area of Sampoorna Nagar in Kheri district near the Indo-Nepal border. On January 17, a complaint was registered against the minor son of Lachhiram and Sitadevi at Khajuria, with the allegation that he had stolen his uncle’s son’s phone.
On January 19, the police summoned the teenager for questioning. His mother Sitadevi also went to the police station along with village head, Gurbaz Singh, and some others.
Sitadevi says that the police assured them that her son would be released in four or five hours, after interrogation. But when they reached the police station, they found the teenager writhing in pain. When his uncle saw what the police had done, he withdrew the complaint and decided to settle the matter at home. His family was shocked to hear the teenager’s ordeal when he returned home – he was unable to sit up and even painkillers his relatives gave him failed to ease the pain.
“My son was brutally thrashed by the police,” alleges Sitadevi. “He was beaten up so badly that he could not even sit straight. When his condition worsened, we rushed him to a private hospital in Palia. He kept groaning in pain the whole day and died at 2 am.”
“The cruel policemen murdered my son. Have you ever seen anyone being beaten up so savagely?” she asks.
When the news of the minor’s death reached the village on January 23, villagers were incensed. They brought the teenager’s corpse out on the road and blocked traffic as anger against police mounted. Several recorded videos of his uncovered body showing marks of alleged police torture.
सत्ता के संरक्षण में अंधी हो चुकी पुलिस अपनी निर्ममता के और कितने उदाहरण पेश करेगी?
लखीमपुर में एक 16 साल के बच्चे को चोरी के जुर्म में थाने के अंदर पीट पीट कर मार दिया गया। वीभत्सता के ऐसे मामले भाजपा सरकार में आम हो चुके हैं।#नहींचाहिएभाजपा pic.twitter.com/LMimOc6r43
— Narendra Verma (@nsvermamla) January 24, 2022
While his family and other protesters accused the Khajuria outpost in-charge and three constables of killing the teenager, police tried to resolve the matter in writing.
In Sampoorna Nagar police station, a case was registered against the deceased’s uncle Ram Bahadur and Rajveer, a youth of Kamlapuri village, under Section 304 (commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC, based on a complaint filed by Sitadevi on January 20.
Kheri Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Suman uploaded a video message on the Twitter handle of Kheri police. In it, Suman described the deceased as a “17-year-old boy” and claimed that the interrogation had happened “in front of everyone” – a version at odds with the teenager’s family’s.
“X*, a 17-year-old boy, died in the Sampoorna Nagar area. The family has alleged that the police tortured the boy owing to which he died. The SP said in a statement that on January 17, the deceased’s uncle had accused him of mobile theft. Following the complaint, the boy had visited the police station along with his mother, some relatives, and the village head. Interrogation was carried out in front of everyone. A settlement was made on January 19. At 3 pm, X* left the outpost area with his family members safely in the presence of police. Today (Sunday) morning, referring to the incident as happened on January 20, the mother of the deceased and five or six others accused the uncle and others of beating him up. But the plaintiff is paramount. Now action is being taken on the basis of both the statements. Further investigation is underway. Strict action will be taken against the policemen, if found guilty,” the SP says in the video.
The teenager belonged to a family of Nepalese migrants hailing from the Tharu tribe and lived in abject poverty. His father, Lachhiram, migrated from Nepal 40 years ago and settled in Kamlapur village. He used to work as a labourer with Sikh farmers. Lachhiram holds an Indian voter ID and Aadhaar card. “Had I known the police here are so cruel, I would never have left Nepal. At least I wouldn’t have lost my son. They killed my son,” he says.
The 16-year-old boy’s mother Sitadevi alleges that not only was her son falsely accused of stealing a mobile phone but that police were bribed to carry out the assault.
Uttar Pradesh is scheduled to go to polls next month and voting in the Kheri district will take place in the fourth phase. Following the incident the Samajwadi Party targeted the Adityanath government of the Bharatiya Janata Party while a delegation of the Bahujan Samaj Party also reached the victim’s house. Meanwhile, the BJP’s local MLA Romi Sahni also visited and consoled the family. The Congress too tweeted on the issue.
लखीमपुर में पुलिस ने थारू समुदाय के 17 वर्षीय युवक राहुल की हिरासत में पीटकर हत्या कर दी।
हिरासत में हत्याओं के लिए कुख्यात यूपी पुलिस बार-बार ऐसी क्रूरता को अंजाम देती है क्योंकि सीएम अजय सिंह बिष्ट का पुलिस पर कोई नियंत्रण नहीं है।
असली जंगलराज, जहां रक्षक ही भक्षक है। pic.twitter.com/F4JdsqUKCC
— UP Congress (@INCUttarPradesh) January 23, 2022
Referring to the minor boy’s death in Lakhimpur Kheri, the Samajwadi Party tweeted, “Another police killing in UP, the no. 1 state in custodial deaths.”
भाजपा सरकार में कस्टोडियल डेथ में नंबर वन यूपी में एक और पुलिस किलिंग!
"मेरे भाई को इतना मारा की उसकी जान चली गई"
लखीमपुर खीरी में पुलिस की पिटाई से 17 वर्षीय युवक की मृत्यु अत्यंत दु:खद!
रोते बिलखते परिजनों की फरियाद सुन उन्हें न्याय दें सीएम।
जनता वोट से देगी जवाब। pic.twitter.com/F2rK3CaD7g
— Samajwadi Party (@samajwadiparty) January 23, 2022
Dr J.N. Singh, associate professor at Yuvrajdutt PG College in Lakhimpur Kheri, says, “I don’t think these issues will have any bearing on the elections. Dalits are easy prey for police. There is no law for the poor and I feel these incidents are part of a strategy. It may create a stir for a while. But that’s all. It’ll hardly be a poll issue.”
*The minor boy’s name has been removed from the transcript of the police video.