On 31 March, Roshan Lal, a 22-year-old Dalit man, took his own life after a police constable beat him up, according to his family members. Roshan’s native place was the Faria Pipariya village in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district. He worked as an electrician at a factory in Haryana’s Gurugram, before the government imposed a 21-day countrywide lockdown to combat COVID-19. The lockdown began on 25 March, and Roshan, like thousands of other migrants who found themselves out of work and without money, was soon forced to go home. Upon his arrival at Faria Pipariya on 29 March, the village authorities placed him under a quarantine at a government primary school. According to Roshan’s family members, two days later, Anoop Kumar Singh, a police constable, saw the 22-year-old in a public place and beat him up. Humiliated by this treatment, his family members said, Roshan went to his family’s farm that night and hung himself from a tree.
On 28 March, Roshan took a bus from the Anand Vihar bus station in Delhi to Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh. From there, he made his way to Faria Pipariya on foot, and by hitch-hiking along the way. He reached home, where his mother, three brothers and their wives live, on the afternoon of 29 March. His uncles also live nearby, in the same locality.
Roshan’s brother, Banke Lal, said, “The president of our gram sabha had said that those who are coming from outside the village were to be quarantined in a primary school till the end of the lockdown.” Roshan complied. There were six other people quarantined in the school as well. But Jaswant Gautam, Roshan’s uncle who is also a resident of the village, said, “Seven people, including Roshan, were staying in that school, but there was no food there … When Roshan felt hungry, he used to go home to eat and then return to the school.”
At around 4 pm on 31 March, Roshan went home to eat. “He asked our brother Sipahi Lal’s wife, Shanti Devi, for food, but there was no atta at our place that day,” Banke said. Devi asked Roshan to get wheat ground into flour from a mill. Meanwhile, Singh, the police constable, reached the school to check up on those who had been quarantined. When he did not find Roshan there, Singh went to his house. There, Devi told him that Roshan had gone to a nearby mill, located around three kilometres away. Singh reached the mill, accompanied by another policeman, and started beating Roshan, Banke said.
According to a report in the newspaper Hindustan Samvad, the policeman who had accompanied Singh recorded a video of the incident. Jaswant told me that people who were present at the scene later informed him that Roshan was repeatedly apologising to Anup Kumar. After beating him up, Singh called up Nitish Bhardwaj, the in-charge of the Aurangabad chowki, close to the village, and put Roshan on the call. According to Jaswant, “Roshan told Bhardwaj that one of my hands is not working at all, but he refused to help and Singh left him in the same condition.”
After this, Sanjay, a resident of Faria Pipariya who works as an electrical linesman, and Sheeshnath, Roshan’s uncle, reached the scene. They brought Roshan home on a motorcycle. When Roshan reached home, around 7.30, Banke said, he narrated the incident to his family. “He kept crying,” Banke told me. Singh was beating Roshan so ruthlessly that Roshan started shouting, “Don’t beat me like this, just shoot me instead,” according to Banke. “My brother’s right hand was completely swollen and his back had become blue due to blood clots.” At night, Roshan made his way to the family’s farm, located around a kilometre away. “No one came to know when he went out to the farm. There, he made three audio recordings on his mobile and put it on the internet. Then, he hanged himself after that,” Banke told me. “Last year, we got our younger sister married, and this year, there was talk of Roshan Lal’s wedding,” he said.
Anil Lal, Roshan’s uncle, shared these audio recordings with me. In one of them, Roshan can be heard saying,