A judicial probe has found the allegations of torture in illegal confinement inflicted on a trade unionist by the Haryana police to be true, with the leader having lost vision in one eye, his limbs fractured and nail beds uprooted.
The inquiry by Faridabad’s district and sessions judge Deepak Gupta found that Shiv Kumar, president of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sanghatan trade union, was illegally confined for a week in January 2021 by the police in Sonepat, which borders Delhi.
It also found the complicity of doctors and judicial officials in hushing up the torture. The BJP has been in power in Haryana since 2014.
A copy of the inquiry report sent to The Telegraph by the petitioner’s lawyers says that during the period of illegal confinement, Kumar “was badly tortured by the police, causing numerous injuries on various parts of his body including fractures”.
Kumar is under trial with fellow activist Nodeep Kaur, both 24 at the time, for three FIRs alleging extortion and attempt to murder. The case drew international attention after American activist Meenakshi “Meena” Harris, niece of US Vice-President Kamala Harris, tweeted about the alleged custodial torture of Kaur who was agitating against erratic wage payment in the Kundli Industrial Area, more than 25km north of the capital.
The farmers’ protest which was in progress nearby at the boundary with Delhi at Singhu supported the agitating workers.
Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the inquiry last year on a petition filed by Kumar’s father Rajbir — a Dalit peasant. One of the petitioner’s lawyers, Harinder Bains, told this newspaper: “Shiv has lost 60 per cent of his vision, and his job. There is pressure on him to arrive at a compromise, but he has not budged. In the next hearing on January 27, we will demand the registration of an FIR and investigation by the CBI.”
Gupta, now the district judge of Panchkula, had completed his probe in July and submitted the report to the high court in August. The complainant was finally given a copy of it on December 12.
The inquiry also found complicity of government doctors and even a magistrate in covering up the crime.
This paper is yet to receive a reply to an email sent on Wednesday to Haryana chief secretary Sanjeev Kaushal seeking his response to the inquiry report. The officials denied any complicity during the inquiry.
The report says: “…Shiv Kumar was examined as many as five times during 24.01.2021 to 02.02.2021 but none of the doctors of Government Hospital, Sonepat, or the doctor deputed in jail performed their duty and they apparently danced to the tune of police officials.”
A medical exam at the Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, on February 20, 2021, on the high court’s orders, found fractures on Kumar’s hand and foot and broken nail beds on his toe caused by a “blunt object”, as well as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Kumar had said that he was tortured by cops to identify other union members at the picket line outside the metal fabrication factory Sharan Elecmech.
The report names Kundli police station sub-inspector Shamsher Singh as “directly responsible for the torture”, and inspectors Ravi Kumar of the same police station, and Ravinder of the Crime Investigation Agency, Sonepat, of complicity in the illegal confinement and torture, respectively.
Sonepat judicial magistrate first class Vinay Kakran also did not purportedly do his duty, as according to Kumar the magistrate granted his police remand after the illegal confinement without seeing him. “Had Ld. (learned) Magistrate seen the accused Shiv Kumar in person, he could have noticed the injuries visible on his body.”
Bains said: “The report reveals that it wasn’t merely one officer torturing someone, but the entire system including a magistrate was complicit. We will ask the honourable high court to set an example of punishing the guilty who have been identified by the judicial inquiry that this court had ordered.”
The International Labour Organisation’s latest Global Wage Report warns of more social unrest as real wages continue to shrink after the pandemic and the Ukraine war. The recent India ratings report shows that after adjusting for inflation, the real wage growth was a negative 3.7 per cent in urban areas and a negative 1.6 per cent in rural areas in June 2022.
Kumar told this paper: “I got a problem in my right eye while in custody which was not treated and I have no vision in that eye now. The doctors say the damage is permanent.”
He added: “There is a lot of pressure from the administration to settle the case. But I want justice and the perpetrators to be punished.”