Budhana (Muzaffarnagar), Dec. 27: A month ago, her husband was taken to the police station. There is no trace of him still. A fortnight ago, they took away her only son. He, too, is missing.
“Can they return me my husband and son'” asks Shamli, a 70-year-old resident of Katua who has lost all male members of her family in police custody.
The suspension of district police chief Brij Bhooshan and three other policemen by the government yesterday fails to impress her. “I have nowhere to go and nobody to look after me,” she said, continuing her sit-in outside the Budhana police station.
Activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) are lending support to the widow, who is blind. They have turned down the district administration’s offer of Rs 1 lakh as compensation.
Shamli’s husband, Chandrabhan, closed his tailoring shop a year ago as he was too old to run it and sold his house to buy a jeep for his son. “He thought Anil would earn by hiring out the jeep and support us,” Shamli recalls.
But the vehicle proved to be a messenger of death. The driver of the jeep was murdered while ferrying passengers and the police suspected Anil’s hand in it.
On November 23, they raided the house and, not finding Anil there, took Chandrabhan to the police station. He was tortured to death and his body disposed of as “unclaimed”.
Anil was absconding. So Shamli was left with nobody to claim her husband’s body. On December 17, armed with a court order, Anil went to the police station to reclaim his jeep and was arrested. He has been missing since then.
Shamli ran from pillar to post, pleading for justice, but to no avail. The police top brass swung into action only after the BKU launched an agitation last week. A case of murder against the police station in-charge and three others was registered on December 23.
However, Shamli is still being harassed by the police. “They have forcibly taken my thumb impression on some papers,” says Shamli, whose family now comprises only Anil’s widow and his 10-year-old son, Shyamo.
“It is the fittest case for punitive damages and we want the widow to get a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the death of her husband and son in police custody,” says Raj Kishore, an activist of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL).
He recalls that only last week, the National Human Rights Commission had ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to give Rs 5 lakh as “interim relief” to a health worker from Jalaun district as she was disabled in police firing.
The rights panel had ordered the same amount as compensation for the custodial death of a Benaras Hindu University student in Balia.
PUCL activists are planning an agitation demanding compulsory compensation to the relatives of those who die in police custody. “Strictures by the NHRC and the apex court seem to have no effect on the functioning of Uttar Pradesh police who behave like a gang of killers. It’s time for exemplary punishment and damages,” a PUCL activist said.
According to an NHRC report released two months ago, more than 100 custodial deaths have been reported in Uttar Pradesh during the last six months and the state accounted for one out of every seven custodial deaths in the country, he said.