The Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission has sought a report from the Betul Collector and Superintendent of Police within two weeks on the reported thrashing of a lawyer by the police, who later told him they mistook him for a Muslim, since he sported a beard.
Chairman of the Commission Narendra Kumar Jain on Friday took cognisance of the reported thrashing on March 23, when Deepak Bundele, a diabetic, was on his way to a hospital. Only prohibitory orders were in force then, ahead of the nationwide lockdown.
After the incident, Mr. Bundele, who reportedly sustained bruises and was left with a bleeding ear, went to a hospital, where he was treated and a medico-legal report was prepared.
Meanwhile, the Betul police on Wednesday told The Hindu the thrashing never took place and there were no witnesses. Further, they have denied Mr. Bundele a certified copy of the footage from the location of the incident under the Right to Information Act, 2005, claiming he did not mention the purpose in his query, which was rejected under Section 8 of the Act, which provides for exceptions to disclosures.
This runs contrary to a policemans remarks to The Hindu, who visited Mr. Bundele on May 17 to record a statement, He looks like a Muslim. It was a confusion... He had a long beard. Sometimes, such incidents happen. I made it clear that sometimes the police make mistakes, and for that we apologise. But, he didnt listen. And he went ahead with the statement.
Further, the lawyer had reportedly recorded the conversation with policemen on the day. Police, whenever there are Hindu-Muslim riots, always sides with the Hindus, even Muslims know about this. But this incident happened; it was a mistake. We are left with no words, one of the policemen is heard saying in the recording, now public and based on which the police suspended one of them.
...So, you are saying they thrashed me thinking I am a Muslim? Mr. Bundele asked them, to which one of them replied, Yes, that is the case, your beard is long too. He [the attacker] is an orthodox Hindu man. The police are yet to register a case in the issue.
Mr. Bundele has further accused the police of pressing him to withdraw the complaint. In the recording, one of the policemen is heard asking him not to record his statement, but attests to the incident, Dont write it now, please listen to me. You are like my child. A voice is coming out of my heart that the police officials with me didnt misbehave with or thrash anyone...This is the country of Gandhi, we are children of Gandhi. The thing is they mistook you as belonging to a different community, thats why the incident happened. Its nothing else.