We, the undersigned, express shock and dismay at the mindset and functioning of the police and the state government in the case of Indramal Bai’s suicide. Distraught and with no way out from the police pressures, she was forced to take this extreme step. We believe that it is a clear case of institutional murder of Indramal Bai by M. P. Government.
Indramal Bai was a waste-picker from the Pardhi community. She lived in Gandhi Nagar basti in Bhopal (M.P.) with her two young children. Her husband was living separately for the past 10 years. She was forced to take her life due to continuous harassment for over a week by three policemen named Gajraj, Jadhav and Sandeep from the local Gandhi Nagar Police Station. These policemen were trying to extort money by threatening to register a criminal case of theft against her. They did not relent even after repeated pleas by Indramal of her innocence and her inability to give any money. On the fateful day (Friday, 17th November 2017), the corrupt policemen visited her house thrice. By the end of it, she was so desperate that she poured kerosene on herself. As she caught fire, the two went away saying that these Pardhis can do all the dramas of the world. Indramal’s relatives ran to save her but she already had over 60% burns when admitted to the Hamidia Hospital. She breathed her last in the intervening night of Sunday and Monday (20th November 2017 at 12:40 a.m.)
It has been reported in the media that Indramal Bai, in her dying declaration to the Magistrate, has said that she had accidentally caught fire when she was burning the scrap. We believe that this kind of testimony has been deliberately written to protect the police. The accused policemen were roaming around the hospital and were in the ward itself where Indramal was admitted. We have doubts on how the questions were asked and how the replies were documented. Her family members’ testimonies as well as her own video testimonies available clearly show that she was pushed to take the extreme step of trying to end her life. Moreover, the Investigation Officer made no effort to take Indramal Bai’s testimony again while she was alive.
On 20th Nov, a group of residents of the basti along with members of several progressive groups in the city protested in front of the Madhya Pradesh Police Head Quarters. Parallelly, an independent fact-finding team met the ADG, Crime against Women, Aruna Mohan Rao and DIG, Sudhir Lad to raise the issue of police apathy and non-registration of FIR, as well as the larger issue of police atrocities on vulnerable groups in the city. While they were assured that justice shall be served, no orders have yet been issued to register an FIR against the accused policemen. The three accused have also not been served suspension orders, and only two of them have been merely line-attached.
Subsequently, residents of the basti and several concerned people staged a non-violent dharna outside Gandhi Nagar police station. They demanded that an FIR must be registered against the three policemen whose illegal, inhuman and cruel act prima facie forced Indramal Bai to take the extreme step. The police officers said that they will decide the course of action once the police enquiry into the incident is completed. Thus, even the basic right to file an FIR was not heeded despite the fact that it was the third day of filing the complaint.
Registering an FIR is a constitutional right of every citizen. In the recent gruesome gang-rape case of the 19 year old girl, the Bhopal District Court has clearly ordered that the police station cannot refuse registering of FIR under any circumstances and no excuse can be tolerated in reference to non-registration of FIR. The Gandhi Nagar police’s excuse that they will register the FIR only after the investigation is completed is a violation of the Constitution.
Though people were sitting in a peaceful way and negotiating with the police functionaries present on the spot, when ASP Sameer Yadav reached the site, he started manhandling the activists and provoked the people. He pushed Alok Agrawal, State Convener for Aam Aadmi Party and pushing him on the ground, told the police to arrest him. As this unfolded, stone pelting started from both sides. Even while present sangathan activists and family members of the victim tried to calm the people, the police recklessly carried out a violent lathi-charge seriously injuring many people.
The arrest of Alok Agarwal, while demanding for an FIR registration within the thana premises, is a completely illegal act. Refusal to give bail because of political pressure is an illegal interference of the government in legal matters of the court.
Madhya Pradesh government has adopted a silent stand on the institutional murder of Indramal Bai. The inaction of police functionaries on a constitutional demand of registering of an FIR shows the deplorable condition of the state we are living in today.
We are forced to say that the police response in the matter has been not only unlawful but gravely insensitive and cruel towards a community which has already been violated for decades. We are also shocked and pained to see the callous attitude of the police towards crimes against women. Moreover to protect the illegal and deplorable actions of its own men, the police is resorting to defaming Indramal by spreading news in media of past cases against her. This situation will have to change.
We demand that the state government should –
1. Register n FIR against the three accused police personnel and take strong, immediate and exemplary action in this incident,
2. Take action against police officers involved in suppressing and delaying justice by not taking timely testimonies from Indramal Bai and her relatives.
3. Initiate a high-level enquiry in the matter of the institutional murder of Indramal Bai
4. Release Alok Agarwal immediately, without any conditions
5. Ensure human rights and democratic rights of Pardhis and other denotified tribes in the state. The repeated violations of rights of these communities in the hands of the police need to be handled firmly and the government has to take steps beyond tokenism and ensure lawful conduct of its functionaries.
Aranya, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bindas Bol Group, Centre for Social Justice, Eka, Forum for Justice, Gharelu Kaamgar Mahila Adhikar Sangh, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Jan Pahal, Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Muskaan, National Federation for Indian Women, Samta, Shahri Mazdoor Sangathan, Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal, Vikalp Sanskritik Manch, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, M.P. and many more
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