Several organisations, including People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Suchna ka Adhikar Evam Rozgar Abhiyan, and activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Kavita Srivastava, Bhanwar meghwanahi, Kailash Meena, Harkesh Bugalia, Mamta Jaitly, Renuka Pamecha, Komal Srivastava, RD Vyas, among others, sitting on a dharna in Jaipur to protest against lynching of Zafar Hussein, have sent an open letter to the chief minister of Rajasthan asking her to review the policy of naming and shaming as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:
After the murder of Pehlu Khan we had written to you that the state was being handed over to Gau Goondas and that we were heading for anarchy. We had urged that as the head of the Government in Rajasthan it was imperative that you take measures so that the people stop taking law into their own hands. The Government’s silence at all levels on such lawlessness makes the Government and its machinery as much a culprit as the Goondas who are holding the State to ransom.
The latest incident is shocking. On the 16th of June, 2017, the first political activist of the State was lynched to death. Zafar Hussein was the Pratapgarh District Committee member of the CPI ML (liberation) party and president of the district branch of the trade union AICCTU for almost two decades. The lynching was done by the Swaach Bharat Abhiyan team, who were the Safai Karamcharis of the Municipality in the presence of the Municipality chairperson Ashok Jain at 6 am.
The story is most disturbing. Mehtab Shah ( Jagwas) Kachhi Basti houses more than 450 families of all castes and communities. The women of the Mehtab Shah (Jagwas) Kachhi Basti, have no option but to go to Khal (a ditch) behind the Basti. The community toilets are too few and not functional, showing the failure of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The Khal fills up with water for several months of the year, so the water from the Khal is used for washing purpose but when it is dry people carry water in containers and use it for washing purpose.
It is ironic that before this incident Zafar Hussein had repeatedly written to the Municipality including his last letter cum press note on the 14th of June which states that money which came for toilets to be constructed in ward 2 was diverted by the municipality officials, which showed the prejudicial behavior of the Municipality. He also added that the public toilets in the basti were non-functional due to negligence on the part of the Municipality. He also ured to link the Basti with the Swach Bharat Abhiyan by giving Rs. 12,000 per toilet to individual households earmarked in the Abhiyan.
He also complained at length regarding the indignity with which women were treated by the safai Karamcharis, literally on a daily basis when they were defecating. He talked of how the safai karamcharis chased the women, took their photographs with their mobile cameras, particularly of women, while they were relieving themselves and also grabbed them. He clearly stated that the members of this ward had no other option but to defaecate in the open, till such time as toilets were constructed.
The letter has as co-signatory the party State Secretary, Mahendra Chaudhary. This clearly was a serious complaint that was sent to the municipality.
The morning of the 16th June, 2017 was the 4th day when the team of safai karamcharis, committed the same crime of sexual violence under section 354 C of the IPC which is called Voyeurism (see foot note). They had no right to go near the women when they were reliving themselves. What is shocking is that not only did they go too close to where the women were, encroaching on their privacy, they also started kicking their water containers and to top it all started taking photographs of women in a state of undress.
All this happened in the presence of the chairperson of the Municipality, Ashok Jain. When the women objected, the men from the Basti came running out, which included Zafar Hussain, who intervened and stopped the men from invading the privacy of the women. He was instead targeted and beaten brutally to death by several safai Karamcharis including Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan, Manish Harijan and Ashok Jain the Chairperson of the Municipality. What is also shocking is that instead of taking Zafar Hussein to the hospital the karamcharis sped away in their vehicle to lodge an FIR against him, leaving his family and basti people to take him to the hospital.
And as is the script in all lynching cases, the person who dies or is injured, is shown as the provocateur and the key participant in the crime being responsible for his own death, so here too, even after he had died, the Pratapgarh police station, shamefully lodged an FIR against him u/s 332 and 353 at the behest of the Municipality Commissioner of having beaten up the safai karamcharis and obstructed them in Governmental duty.
It was only through public pressure that a board of doctors was put together and the post mortem conducted, yet no arrests have happened till now. There is a clear cut effort to protect the Safai Karamcharis and the chairperson of the Municipality.
All of us peace loving citizens of this country we
- Demand the immediate suspension and arrest of all the three Safai Karamcharis named in the FIR along with Ashok Jain, the chairperson of the Municipality.
- A high level enquiry be set up to examine the lynching to death of Zafar Hussain and the tyrannical role of the Safai Karamcharis and the Municipality as a whole, including the Chairperson towards women and men defeacating in duress.
- The family be given a compensation of Rs. 1 crore
- Immediately ensure the construction of community and individual toilets in the Jagwas Kachhi Basti.
There are two issues that emerge, one relates to the policy of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in Rajasthan of shaming those defaecating in the open and the other relates to the increasing number of incidents of lynching in Rajasthan.
The policy of shaming is not new and has had its consequence even earlier. Last year on June 3rd 2016, in your own home district of Jhalawar, the District Education officer had issued a circular that all teachers would leave their homes at 5 am, not only generate awareness against open defaecation but also take photographs of those defecating in the open and send it through watts app to senior officials on a daily basis. Teachers questioned this policy, particularly the women who did not appreciate this role of clicking photographs of men and women in a state of undress when relieving themselves.
Secondly, to indulge in shaming via taking photographs of people when they are relieving themselves as a policy in Swach Bharat Abhiyan, is to put the onus on the poor that they are responsible for this condition, it also encourages, men to commit the act of sexual violence, including voyeurism where women are concerned as we saw in the case of Pratapgarh. In the latter case, the basti was denied even public toilets by the municipality leave alone providing families with the Rs. 12,000 for constructing individual toilets. Why punish the poor and deprive them of their dignity when it is the Government which has falied to deliver even toilets to the people.
We hope this is the last time that we hear of this policy.
Increasing incidents of lynching in the state
This incident of lynching to death is a part of a whole series that started with Dangawaas, Nagaur on the 14th of May, 2015, when 6 dalits were brutally attacked and killed by the dominant caste people over a land dispute with the complete participation of the Merta police station and other senior officials.
Even before we could recover from this tragedy, on 30th May, 2015 Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi of Birloka village, Khimsar, Nagaur was killed by a crowd of Gau Goondas, who were baying for the blood of Muslims over a false story that the carcasses of animals lying in an empty plot, dumped by the panchayat contractor were the carcasses of cows slaughtered by Muslims for feasting purpose. Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who had nothing to do with these carcasses was just picked up by the crowd as he was Muslim and stoned to death by them.
This was not the end in June 2016, in Pratapgarh, more than 150 people, who were members of the Bajrang Dal and so called Gau Rakshaks stopped several trucks carrying draught animals, mainly bullocks and accused the truck drivers of cow smuggling and not only beat up the drivers but also stripped them naked and took away all the animals, never to be returned to the owners. There was collusion of the police with these law breakers, photographs were proof enough to show their involvement.
On 3rd October of 2016, Gavroo Banjara and his family after legally buying 6 bullocks from the Kunwariya Animal Fair, were returning to their village Bhamakhera in Relmagra tehsil, when they were stopped by 17 of these Gau goondas, who demanded money, when they refused they were brutally assaulted and their truck carrying bullocks was taken away by the Gau Goondas, it was the intervention of the villagers which resulted in the police reaching the spot and saving Gauroo and his family members and their bullocks and arresting two of the gau goondas. According to the Banjara community whose primary job is to rear draught animals, they are harassed regularly and attacked lethally by these Gau Goondas who are basically extortionists.
On the 19th of March, 2017 Sadhvi Kamal Didi of the Rashtriya Mahila Gau Rakshak Samiti alleged that the staff of Hotel Hyatt Rabbani in Bani Park area of Jaipur fed beef to Gaumata and gathered a few hundred people, beat up the cleaner, the receptionist in front of the police and when the Hotel owner Mr.Naeem Rabbani refused to come to the hotel, she got the Jaipur city mayor to seal the hotel after throwing out more than 20 occupants late in the night. She then lodged an FIR against the owner for cooking, serving beef and feeding it to Gau mata.
900 gms of the meat sample were even sent to the FSL for forensic examination. Mr. Rabbani also got an FIR lodged against Kamal Didi. Although it took Mr. Rabbani more than 70 days to get his hotel reopened through the court, the FSL report proved that the bones were chicken bones, however, no arrest was made of Kamal Didi and she roams freely. The Rabbani hotel staff, the owner and his family ofcourse suffered huge economic losses, defamation and harassment and still suffering.
On the 1st of April, 2017 Pehlu Khan of Jaisinghpur Nuh Haryana, his two sons and two others from the village had bought 5 cows and six calves from the Ramgarh Hatwara outside Jaipur. After collecting the receipts from Jaipur Municipal Corporation counter, they loaded the trucks with the cows and calves and took the NH8 Highway for Nuh. At Behror, 120 kms from Jaipur on the NH8, they were stopped by these Gau Goondas who pulled them out of their vehicle and chased them and beat them up brutally that Pehlu Khan succumbed to his injuries and died on the 3rd of April.
The police first lodged an FIR of cow smuggling against Pehlu Khan and his sons and Azmat and Rafiq who were traveling with him and only later lodged the FIR in the assault and murder case. To date the police has not arrested the people named in the FIR and filed a charge sheet last week against the 7 others arrested. The effort to save those named is simply to protect the office bearers of the various Hindutva organisations. Ofcourse, the dairy farmers are still harassed with the false case against them. And most of all the cows they bought have been snatched away from them.
I am sure you would recall the case that happened on the 24th of April, 2017 when several sevadars from Alwar district had come to Ajmer begging for alms, they were brutally attacked and beaten up, by the local villagers of Nasirabad area of Ajmer district. All this happened in the presence of the a police constable who did not save them and instead he asked the violent mob to continue attacking the Sikh Sevadars. It seems he also asked mob to teach the four of them a lesson and warned them not to attack them on their head. It is shocking that only when the video went viral a month later that a police case was lodged and culprits identified.
On the 1st of June a 25-year-old man was beaten and tortured in Rajasthan’s Churu district by family members of a girl with whom he was in a relationship with. The girl apparently called the boy, named Rajkumar, to visit her at her village in Tara Nagar, which is when a mob comprising her family members got hold of him, stripped him half-naked, beat him up, shaved his hair and pulled off his toe nails. Rajkumar was ultimately rescued by villagers and admitted to a private hospital in Jaipur where he is undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit.
It was only when a video clip of Rajkumar’s ordeal was seen circulating on social media, that the police located him and lodged a case on the 10th of June.
Recently on June 5 a 21-year-old mentally challenged youth was tied to a tree and thrashed for half an hour by an angry mob outside a temple in Bandikui in Dausa district.
As recently on the 15th of June, another video surfaced where a mentally challenged woman in Nagaur district was forced to say Allah, Jai Shriram and Jai Hanuman which she does say in duress. This mindless act beating her with a pipe and injuring her happened earlier, however, the police lodged an FIR much later and two persons have been arrested.
The numbers of incidents of mob justice are on the increase. See the number of incidents since March 2017. We are shocked at the lack of accountability of the State against these crimes.
- We would like to share your Government’s plan to stop this violence
- We demand an end to this anarchy that is now becoming a norm in the State. We want the rule of law restored and strict action taken against such culprits.
- We also demand that Rs. 1 crore be given to the families of those killed due to lynching and 25 lakhs to the injured.
- We also demand strict action against the police and administration who are in collusion with these lynch mobs.
We hope that as Chief Minister of the State you will also reassure the people your Government’s plan to combat this violation and stop all sponsorship that is happening of vigilante groups, whether in the name of the cow where Muslims and Dalits and Ghumantus are clearly targeted and prevent programmes like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan from becoming tyrannical.
We hope you will give time to the families of those who have been killed or the injured and meet them to assure them that they matter.
 354C. Any man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation I.— For the purpose of this section, “private act” includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim’s genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.
Explanation 2.— Where the victim consents to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section.