Death of a dalit youth in police custody
The One Who Was the Only Bread Earner for a Family of Blind Parents and two Teenager Sisters
Photos: Pardeep Kumar | Grieving parents of Pardeep Kumar
A fact finding report and photos by Dr. Pushkar Raj, National Secretary, PUCL
On January 27, 2007 Pradeep Kumar , resident of village Cheeti, in Greater Noida belt died in Merrut Medical Hospital. The police picked up the boy two weeks ago from his home. PUCL investigated the circumstances leading to young man’s death. A fact finding report by Dr. Pushkar Raj, National Secretary PUCL.
His name is Pardeep, lovingly they call him Chotu. He is young, handsome, slender and bubbling with life. He is poor. He shares one room with a small courtyard with his blind parents, two teenaged sisters and an eighty years old grandfather in one part of the village that forms part of the cluster of houses of the Jatav (dalit) community. The lane leading to his house in the village is partially brick paved, narrow like two wheeler garage and over flooding with seemingly stagnant water.
Pardeep Kumar is a gentle, loving and responsible young boy who in order to tame his poverty has opened a small shop of daily provisions along with a public call facility popularly known as PCO. According to the village school records where he studied Pardeep would have celebrated his 17th birth day on 20 May 2007.
But no more he would do that. He died on 27 Jan 2007, due to multiple bodily injuries and the spinal cord broken after he was taken into police custody on the night of 12 January 2007.
The Place and the Incident
Cheeti village falls under Greater Noida belt barely 40 Kms. east of Delhi. The region is prosperous and is being developed by the government of Uttar Pradesh as Special Export Zone (SEZ). Pradeep was the resident of the Cheeti village that has majority of agriculturally dominant gujar community. On the night of 12 January 2007, 15 to 20 men came to the village and picked up Pardeep Kumar, a dalit and the two other young boys belonging to gujar community with a richer economic background. He was taken to Dadri Police station, a police station that does not have any jurisdiction over his village. There he was interrogated and later sent to jail after four days. He died two weeks later in a hospital.
Victim’s father , Shri. Harcharn Singh’s version
About 15-20 police men came in the night of 12 January at my house. It was after midnight. We were sleeping. They asked for chotu (Pardep). They slapped me and when my wife intervened she was also beaten up and pushed on the ground. Even a neighbor Seeto, who came to our help was also thrashed by the police men. Chotu was wearing a half pant and a banyan. They even did not let him put on the slippers. They thrashed him with a stick in front of us as they dragged him away. In the morning we came to know that two other boys were also picked up. His grandfather, (father himself being blind) went to the Dhankour police chowki (post) in the morning. They told him that he is not here. They told him to go to Dadri police station and find out from there.
The grandfather‘s version
As I spoke to the eighty years old grandfather, the man’s wrinkled face oozed pain that flowed from the memories of his grandchild that seemed still raw in his mind. He told PUCL: After Dhankour police station I went to the Dadri police station. I reached there by 10 o’clock in the morning. When I inquired from them about Pradeep, no one paid any attention to me. I requested the policeman sitting on the chair who seemed to be on duty. He told me not to disturb him early in the morning. He said that there is no one of that name. I was not convinced. I came towards the gate of the police station and waited for some policeman to come out so that I might request him and inquire from him about my grandchild. I pleaded with folded hands with a policeman as he came out of the police station. He found out that Pardeep was there. He took me near the lockup.
From a distance they let me see him. Seeing me my child tried to get up. But he was unable to get up. He collapsed as he tried to get up. They did not let me go near him. Two days later we came to know that the boy was sent to district jail Dasna. On 23 January the boy’s brother in law Moti Lal went to see the victim at the Dasna Jail.
Moti Lal’s version
I went to see pardeep at the jail. I reached at around 9 o’clock in morning. I was at outside, trying to know how I could see him. As the chance would have it I saw Pardeep being taken away on a stretcher towards an ambulance. I stopped the men who were carrying him on stretcher. I asked them what had happened to the boy. They said he had been unconscious for last 10-12 hours. I tried to stir him, but there was no movement. I saw that he had no control over his motion and urine. His clothes were soiled. His face and body was all blue. I also went in the same ambulance to the Ghaziabad general hospital where the jail staff was taking him. In hospital he was admitted in the orthopedic ward. The doctors told me that they cannot handle his case. They said these people have not left anything in the boy. It is matter of days. He will not survive, they told me.
The police station in charge of Dadri, Dharmendra Chouhan where the boy sustained injuries told PUCL that these three boys were taken into custody in the area of Badarpur chowki (police post) that falls under Dadri police station. They were charged with theft of a Qualis car and were sent to the jail on the very next day. When asked how a young healthy boy could die suddenly he said that the jailor Komal Singh Yadav told him that the boy had brain fever and he died due to that.
Ved Pal Singh who arrested these boys and was the investigating officer of the case told PUCL that the boys were traced through a mobile that went missing with the vehicle that they had stolen. A boy from Badarpur was taken into custody. He told us that these three boys were also involved. We arrested them in the evening of 12 January. We recovered knives and pistols from them. There was firing also. We have registered cases under section 379 and 411 besides others.
The Superintendent of Police (rural) Sudhir Kumar Singh first told PUCL that he would get the record made available to him and then speak on it. After three days when he could be contacted again he said that the boy died in judicial custody, not in police custody and therefore their department has nothing to do with it. When asked what was the cause of death he said that he had seen the postmortem report and it does not state any cause of death implying that it was a natural death. When asked that the boy died in the orthopedic ward as per the boy’s close relatives who were present beside his side when he died he answered that he has no knowledge about it where he died. When asked if there was any inquiry being conducted in this regard he said he has no knowledge of it as it is a matter pertaining to jail.
Pradeep along with two others was picked up from the village Cheeti that is about 20 kms away from the place where police claimed to have arrested him. Apart from the family members of Pradeep some milkmen of the village who were on their way back also confirm to this.
Police had no proof to pick up a minor boy with no past criminal record at midnight from his home. He was not a terrorist who was supposed to be nabbed at the dead of night.
He was beaten and tortured in the police custody, perhaps much more in comparison to fellow inmates because he was poor and could not bribe the police for `humane treatment.’
During the course of beating and torture in police custody his spinal cord was severely damaged
Pradeep was a minor. He was not supposed to be in jail where the police sent him.
He remained in jail medically unattended for several days. Due to the criminal neglect of the jail staff when his condition deteriorated and he became unconscious then the jail administration removed him first to Gaziabad general hospital and later to Merrut Medical College where he died.
A time bound judicial inquiry should be conducted in police /judicial custody death of Pradeep Kumar.
The policemen who are prima-facie responsible for the arrest and torture of the Pradeep must be suspended from the service pending outcome of the judicial inquiry.
In the light of the fact that the victim was the only bread earner for his blind parents, an aged grand father and two teenaged sister, the family of the victim should be given a compensation of Rs. 10 Lakhs.
Senior police officers who are not even aware of full case details of police custody deaths under their jurisdiction must be given charge of less important responsibilities like looking after old paper records or republic day parade rehearsal of men under their command.