On Sunday evening, Pradeep Tomar (35) left home in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilkhua telling his wife Rajni that his younger brother’s motorcycle had a tyre puncture, and that he would be home soon after helping out. Tomar took his 11-year-old son along. He never returned.
He died hours later while in police custody after he was allegedly assaulted by several policemen, who has detained him for questioning in a murder case. According to his son, who witnessed the assault, Tomar was kicked, punched, hit with planks of wood, given electric shocks and pierced with a screwdriver repeatedly.
A purported video of Tomar’s body after he died shows deep bruise marks on his posterior and left arm and stab wounds all over the body. According to the 11-year-old, police slapped him too and even put a gun in his mouth before warning him not to speak to anyone else about what he had seen.
Three policemen, including the SHO of Pilkhua, were subsequently suspended and in a set of directives to Hapur Police Tuesday, Alok Singh, IG Meerut zone, ordered police to ensure “safety” of those arrested and to protect the “image” of the force.
“By rule, any death during custody is a violation of human rights and the accountability rests on the entire police force. The unlawful beatings of accused in prisons display inhuman and aggressive nature of police and must be prevented. The policemen involved in such activities must be met with punishment,” said Singh in the order.
But Tomar’s wife, now inconsolable, is not satisfied with the action. “Those who did this to my husband should be charged with murder and should also be beaten up. He was the sole earning member of the family. What will happen to us now? I should be given employment, and my sons too, when they grow up,” she said.
Tomar’s relatives staged a protest at the Meerut Commissioner’s office Monday but said no authorities came to meet them.
According to Hapur SP Yeshveer Singh, Tomar was called for questioning in connection with a murder case. “A woman named Preeti was murdered in August but she could not be identified then. Once identified, we found that her husband Digamber allegedly got her murdered with the help of a relative. Two people were hired for Rs 1.5 lakh, and Pradeep Tomar was allegedly supposed to pay them. He was married to Digamber’s sister,” he said.
“On Sunday, he was called for questioning but after a few hours, said he was not feeling well, following which he was taken to a local hospital as well as a hospital in Meerut later, but he didn’t survive. Three policemen have been suspended, and if they are found to be guilty of assault, further action will be taken. The departmental enquiry report will come within seven days, and the postmortem report should also come in a day or two.”
Family and friends of Tomar, who worked as a private security guard, however, said he was misled and called to the Chijarsi outpost by police. His younger brother Kuldeep and wife Kavita were first detained by police at the Pilkhua police station while they were out buying rations, and Kuldeep was then allegedly forced to call Pradeep and lie to him to lure him to the outpost.
The 11-year-old boy, who accompanied his father, said policemen first abused him and then started beating him. “My father kept begging them not to beat him and asked them what he had done wrong but they kept hitting him. They were drunk. He fell at their feet and asked them to leave him, but they tortured him so much that he defecated and urinated. Even when he was taken to the local hospital, he was not given any treatment. He was just locked in a room,” he said.
“They also slapped me and put the gun inside my mouth. Later they gave me a packet of chips and told me not to tell anyone about what I had seen,” he said.
Jagdish Tomar, a relative, said police were trying to defame Tomar. “They say Pradeep was going to pay the hitmen Rs 1.5 lakh but he didn’t have so much money. He only earned Rs 7,000 per month,” he said.
He also said the UP government had not stepped in despite it becoming a big case. “No one from the state government has come to the thana or to us. This is the kind of apathy,” he said.