Was the Dalit Family in Dankaur Really Stripped by the Police?

11 October 2015

At about noon, on 7 October 2015, a Dalit farmer named Sunil Gautam was sitting naked on a brick-paved street that cuts through the town market of Dankaur village in Uttar Pradesh. I spoke to dozens of shopkeepers who told me he had stripped as a form of protest. He did this, his sister, Laukesh Kumari, said when I met her this Saturday, on 10 October, “Because the police refused to register his complaint.” She told me that Gautam wanted to file an FIR (First Information Report) which stated that Mahendra Gurjar—who owns a patch of land next to Gautam’s, close to the Jaypee Sports City in Greater Noida—had stolen his bike, the keys to his auto-rickshaw, and a sum of Rs 850 on the evening of 5 October. The police, however, told me that Gautam did not want to file a written complaint, and that, based on their prior experience with him, they were wary of being accused by him of filing an erroneous FIR. Gautam, his brother Sohan Lal, and their wives Harwati and Reeta are all currently in custody at Noida’s Luksar jail.

Within days the matter had spread well beyond the town, thanks to social media. A video shot by some passers-by had made its way online and local media websites had published unconfirmed news reports. One such report wasa storypublished by a news website called Dailysikhupdates.com, that was titled “DALIT FAMILY MADE TO PARADE NAKED BY POLICE IN UP CAUSES OUTRAGE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.” The report is no longer available on the website. Soon after, other video clips began surfacing on the internet; these contradicted the narrative that had gained traction and indicated that that the family had done so of its own accord.

When I reached Dankaur on 9 October, it was already close to 9 pm and the market in which this incident took place was shut. There were no streetlights, and the village was enveloped in darkness. Earlier that day, a fact-finding team that comprised activists from some Left parties visited Dankaur. Their reportstated thatthe police never filed Gautam’s FIR. It went on to claim that Praveen Kumar, the station officer at the Dankaur police station, had torn Gautam’s shirt and beaten him up, before doing the same to his sister-in-law Reeta when she tried to intervene. I was unable to corroborate either this or much of the other information in that report through my experience in Dankaur.

Atul Dev is a former staff writer at The Caravan.