Protests in Sangrur district after Dalit, who was forced to drink urine, dies; AAP demands CBI probe

Sangrur (Pb), Nov 17 (PTI) Activists of some Dalit outfits, social organisations and the BSP sat on a protest in Sangrur district of Punjab on Sunday, a day after a 37-year-old Dalit man died after being mercilessly thrashed and forced to drink urine earlier this month.

The protesters, who blocked the Lehra-Sunam road, demanded that the next of kin of the deceased be given a government job and his family be provided a compensation of Rs 50 lakh.

'The family should be given justice. The perpetrators of the crime should be hanged. The Punjab government should give a job to the victim's wife and Rs 50 lakh compensation should be given to the family,' a protester said.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is currently abroad, called the incident a grave crime that would not go unpunished.

He directed the state chief secretary and the DGP to ensure speedy, time-bound investigations and trial against the accused.

Amarinder spoke to Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and DGP Dinkar Gupta over phone in connection with the case.

He directed both officials to leave no stone unturned to ensure stringent and exemplary punishment for the accused within the next three months, an official spokesperson said.

Urging the family members of the deceased to call off their protest, the chief minister announced that the state government would ensure that they get justice and proper rehabilitation.

He also called upon all political leaders not to politicise the issue. 'It is a humanitarian issue and a grave crime that would not go unpunished,' he said.

His government, said the chief minister, was committed to the protection of the Dalits and would not tolerate any atrocities against them.

The government spokesperson said Amarinder Singh had taken serious note of the incident amid reports that the victim, a construction worker, was tortured and dumped on the street. His legs had to be amputated at PGIMER Chandigarh after he was referred there following initial treatment at three other hospitals.

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party's Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann demanded a CBI probe into the incident. He said it was a shameful act and those responsible should be given strict punishment.

The MP said he would be meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi in this connection and also raise the barbaric incident in Parliament.

Mann also alleged that the FIR in the case was registered by the Lehra police here six days after the incident on November 7 and demanded that it be probed if there was any 'political pressure' behind it.

He said it should be looked into if Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who belongs to the area from where the accused and the victim come, had any role behind the delay in the registration of the case.

Talking to reporters here, Bhattal said, 'Those who are levelling baseless allegations are not doing any good to the cause of victim's family who are seeking justice.' 'It is a very unfortunate incident. Whatever has happened is intolerable and accused should be given exemplary punishment,' former Punjab chief minister Bhattal said.

Sunam MLA Aman Arora, who also visited the protest site, said the family should get justice and their demands should be met by the government.

Four people have already been arrested in connection with the crime.

Demanding a written assurance from the government, the victim's kin have refused to take the body until a government job is given to his widow and the family gets Rs 50 lakh compensation. The family also demanded that those responsible for the crime be given exemplary punishment.

The Dalit man is survived by his wife and three children, including two daughters.

'Our demand is that exemplary punishment should be given to the accused. The government should give us written assurance that they will give me a job and a compensation of Rs 50 lakh to the family,' the victim's wife said.

Punjab Minister for Social Justice, Empowerment and Minorities Sadhu Singh Dharamsot met the victim's widow and some other family members in Chandigarh.

He said the government stood with the family in their hour of grief and was doing all it could to ensure justice in the case.

As a measure of immediate relief, as is provided under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, a sum of Rs 8.15 lakh would be given to the next of kin, besides free education to the dependent children and other assistance contained under the Act, including a monthly pension of Rs 5,000, Dharamsot said.

Congress leader Raj Kumar Verka, who is a prominent leader from the Dalit community, met the victim's family in Sangrur and said the government has taken a feedback from the IG and the SSP about the incident.

'We have written to the chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court and requested that the rarest of the rare case should be fast-tracked so that the accused get severe punishment at the earliest,' Verka said.

Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly and AAP legislator Harpal Singh Cheema said the family should be given adequate compensation and 'police security'.

On October 21, the victim, who was a resident of Changaliwala village, got into an altercation with one Rinku and some other persons over some issue. The matter was resolved with the intervention of villagers, the police said.

The victim had told police that on November 7, Rinku had called him to his house where the two talked about the issue.

He had alleged that he was then thrashed by four persons with a stick and an iron rod after being tied to a pillar and was forced to drink urine when he asked for water.

After the incident, the opposition parties have attacked the Congress government over the 'barbaric treatment' being meted out to Dalits in the state. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said a 'rule of jungle' was prevalent in the state. PTI SUN VSD IJT