Assaulted by a police constable, Dalit youth in quarantine killed himself: Family

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. Courtesy Vineet Gautam
05 April, 2020

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,

I am very stressed ... My only mistake is that there was no food in my house, then, my sister-in-law said to get wheat grinded into flour. I went. This is my fault because I should have stayed in the school. After that, a constable named Anoop came. He asked, “Your name is Roshan?” I said, “Yes.” He hit me so much, so much, so much. He broke my right hand or something, it is not working, nor are my fingers functioning. I am so helpless, so helpless, don’t ask me anything. … I was made to speak to Nitish sir, who is the in charge of the Aurangabad chowki. He said, “You should have sat in the school.” I said, “Sir, that was my fault, please. Get me treated from a doctor. Get me sent to a doctor.” He did not help me.

Roshan also mentioned that Sanjay and his uncle helped him later. The police “hit me so much, I can’t even talk about it.” He further said, “He hit me so much, so much … I don’t have an option after this.” 

He sent the audio files to Ankit Trivedi, who is associated with the newspaper Dainik Jagran in his village, according to Anil. The recordings went viral in the village. “We got information about the audio it much after it had gone everywhere,” Anil said. The family found the body at night itself, Banke said.

Vineet Gautam, Roshan’s brother who is a labourer, told me on 3 April that the police had not registered an FIR in the case, even though the family had filed a handwritten complaint to the Maigalganj police station on 31 March. The Caravan has a copy of the complaint. The complaint was written by Sipahi Lal, Roshan’s brother, and addressed to Chandrakant Singh, the station house officer of the Maigalganj police station. In it, he accused Singh of assaulting Roshan. The phrase “this is due to the harassment by Anoop Kumar Singh,” is also mentioned in it. 

After the incident, Vineet told me, 250 to 300 policemen were deployed in the village. “The police want to take Roshan’s mobile, in which those recordings are present,” Vineet said. The police is trying to create an atmosphere of fear, he added.

I called Bhardwaj for a comment, but he refused to talk. Chandrakant Singh told me, “We are investigating the matter.” When I asked him why an FIR was not filed against Singh even after receiving the complaint, he said, “We will file it after investigation. But the accused has been sent to the police lines.” 

In one of the three audio recordings, Roshan detailed that all his savings should go to his mother post his death. “Eighty thousand rupees is there in a PNB account in Maholi, my mother should get it; twenty thousand rupees is deposited in Allahabad bank, my mother should get it; twenty five thousand rupees are saved with my contractor, my mother should get that,” he said. “There should be an inquiry against Anoop Kumar,” he said. “He beat me so ruthlessly, if one opens my pants, you will see only blood … because of this, I have killed myself.” In another recording he said, “After my death, if someone says that ‘he had coronavirus’—I have been examined, I have no such thing.”