Madhya Pradesh Police Apologise for Beating Lawyer, 'We Thought You Were Muslim,' They Say

Madhya Pradesh Police Apologise for Beating Lawyer, 'We Thought You Were Muslim,' They Say

The police officer allegedly told the victim advocate Deepak Bundele over the phone, "Shame on all those who did something like this to a Hindu brother without knowing." The police always support Hindus whenever there is a Hindu-Muslim riot, Muslims also know this. But everything that happened to you happened due to ignorance. I have no words for that.

A case of Islamophobia and arbitrariness of police has come up in Betul, Madhya Pradesh. On March 23, Deepak Bundele, a lawyer, was brutally beaten by the state police while he was going to a government hospital for treatment. A month later, he is under police pressure to withdraw his complaint. Police officials in his defense told Bundelay that he was beaten up because he incorrectly identified him as a Muslim man.

Speaking to The Wire, Bundele said that he was going to the hospital when he was stopped between 5.30 pm and 6 pm on 23 March. Countrywide lockdown was not enforced then but section 144 was imposed in Betul. I am a patient of diabetes and blood pressure for the last 15 years. Since I did not feel well, I decided to go to the hospital and get some medicines, but the police stopped me in between.

Bundela, who has a beard, said he explained to police personnel that he had to take his medicines, but one of them slapped me without hearing what I was trying to say.

'I told them that they should work within the constitutional limits, and if the police think so, I am ready to take them under custody under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.

On hearing this, the police personnel lost their temper and started abusing me and the Indian constitution. Within no time, many police officials came and started beating me up with sticks,” Bundele said. 

Only after he said he was a lawyer and would take them to the task did they stop beating him, he said. “But by that time my ear had started bleeding profusely,” Bundele alleged. 

Photo Credits: The Wire

Deepak then called his friend and brother to the hospital and received a Medicolegal Case (MLC) report. On March 24, he filed a complaint with the district Superintendent of Police D.S. Bhadoria and the state Director General of Police Vivek Johri.

He then wrote letters to the Chief Minister, the State Human Rights Commission, the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, and top government officials. Bundele also stated that he had filed an RTI application for CCTV footage of the March 23 incident, but the information was denied. 'I received a reply saying that I have not clearly stated the reason for which I had made an RTI request. But I have been informally told that CCTV footage has been deleted from government files.'

He alleged that since then the police have been making a lot of effort to withdraw the complaint. At first some of the top officials told me that they can apologize for this incident if they withdraw their complaint. After this, some people told me and my brother (they are also lawyers) that if they want to practice law in a peaceful way, then they should stop complaining.

Photo Credits: The Wire

However, Bundelay did not mind these things. In his complaint to the SP on March 24, he requested the District Police to register an FIR against the incident. On that basis some police officers came to his house on 17 May. He told Deepak that it was a case of mistaken identity and police officials thought he was a Muslim. Deepak says, Police officers should not have taken more than five minutes to record my statement but it took almost three hours as they kept trying to convince me to withdraw the complaint.

According to The Wire, Deepak Bundelle shared a voice recording allegedly hearing police officers saying that the attack on him was a mistake by some officers who thought he was a Muslim because of his beard. He then goes on to say that the police usually support Hindus in the event of communal riots.

The alleged police officers are heard saying that we apologize on behalf of the officers who attacked (Deepak Bundele). We are really embarrassed because of the incident. If you want I can bring those officers in front of you and ask them to ask for it in person.

 I am heartily requesting you to write to me that the police did not treat me with indecent nor assault me. Please agree with our request, we understand that we are living in Gandhi's country, we are all Gandhi's children, I have at least 50 friends from your caste.'

When Bundele insisted that he had nothing personal against him or any police officer and declined to withdraw his complaint, the police official said:

“All those people are ashamed that they did something like this to a Hindu brother without knowing his identity. 

“We do not have any enmity against you. Whenever there is a Hindu-Muslim riot, police always support the Hindus; even Muslims know this. But whatever happened with you was because of ignorance. For that, I have no words,” he said. 

Bundele clarified that there was no Hindu-Muslim riot that day, and asked whether he was beaten for being wrongly identified as a Muslim. The police officials agreed and said:

“Yes, exactly. You had a long beard. The man (who assaulted you) is a kattar (staunch) Hindu…In Hindu-Muslim riots whenever a Muslim is arrested, he beats them up brutally, always.”

Bundele then goes on to say that he had been a professional journalist with leading dailies in Bhopal for 10 years and came back to Betul only in 2017 to practice law while insisting that he won’t withdraw his complaint. He said that he has already requested top officials of the state and the country to take action in the case, and therefore, will pursue the complaint now. 

An FIR against this case has still not been registered, Bundele said. “I was struck by the way the police officials apologized. Even if I was a Muslim, what gives the police the right to assault them without any cause,” he said. 

Source: The Wire