Four different doctors from the Civil Hospital in Haryana’s Sonipat district examined the Dalit labour-rights activist Shiv Kumar five times between 24 January and 2 February, and found no injuries to indicate custodial torture, according to a status report by the Haryana Police. In end February, five doctors from Chandigarh’s Government Medical College and Hospital had concluded that Kumar suffered from multiple fractures, broken nail beds, several injuries and psychiatric symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. In a detailed interview, Kumar recounted his ordeal to me, accusing the police of illegally detaining him on 16 January and torturing him in custody for over two weeks. His account corroborated the GMCH report, which stated that his injuries were over two weeks old. Yet, the medical examinations conducted at the Sonipat Civil Hospital revealed “nothing abnormal” and added, “no active medical intervention needed.”
The Haryana Police filed the status report on the instructions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a case filed by Kumar’s father, Rajbir, seeking an independent investigation into his son’s detention and torture. During the proceedings, the court first called for a medical examination at GMCH, and after reviewing the report—which described severe custodial torture and PTSD—called for the records of previous medical examinations conducted. On 27 February, Virender Singh, the deputy commissioner of police of Sonipat, submitted five medical reports—four conducted at the Civil Hospital and one at Sonipat Jail—and all of them were in stark contrast to the GMCH report. After acknowledging the contrast, the high court directed the district and sessions judge of Faridabad to “hold an inquiry with regard to the allegations of illegal detention and custodial torture of Shiv Kumar.”
Kumar is the founder and president of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan—or Workers’ Rights Organisation—which, among other activities, organises peaceful protests to pressurise factories to release the wages of workers. According to the police, Kumar was arrested on 23 January in relation to three different first-information reports for committing offences pertaining to rioting, unlawful assembly, extortion and criminal intimidation, among others. The three FIRs followed two MAS protests demanding payments for workers at the Kundli Industrial Area, located on the outskirts of Delhi, which has a large number of factories that employ workers primarily from marginalised communities. He was released on bail on 4 March.
On 5 March, I met Kumar when he came to Chandigarh for medical treatment. He recounted his ordeal to me, retracing it from the circumstances of his detention to detailed description of his days in custody and the brutal torture he suffered, and providing a very different version of the medical reports submitted by the Haryana Police.
“Mujhe woh gunpoint pe bandhak banaa ke le gaye, chehra poora cover kar diya”—They held me at gunpoint and took me hostage, they covered my face entirely, Kumar said about the day he was detained. According to the 25-year-old activist, who is also visually impaired and needs his glasses to be able to see, he was using the washroom of a KFC restaurant in Kundli when the police “abducted” him. He said he was taken to the office of the Haryana Police’s Crime Investigation Agency, in the old courts complex in Sonipat. His face was covered the entire while, and his glasses were destroyed in the process, on the very first day of his detention. The Haryana Police and the Sonipat Jail authorities subsequently refused to provide Kumar a new pair of glasses on multiple occasions, until 19 February, despite being made aware of his visual impairment.