Municipality employees in Pratpargh town on Friday beat a middle-aged Muslim man to death when he allegedly tried to stop them from scaring women defecating in the open and taking their photographs.
The incident happened near Bagwasa Kachi Basti area at around 6:30 am where few women had gone to attend nature's call.
The municipality employees of Pratapgarh town municipality tried scaring away women and took photographs of women defecating in the open.
It was then that Zafar Khan intervened and tried stopping municipality employees from taking pictures.
In retaliation, municipality employees kicked, punched and beat Khan with a stick, which led to his death, according to the FIR lodged by Khan's elder brother Noor Mohammed.
Noor has lodged a complaint against Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan, Manish Harijan, Nagar Parishad commissioner Ashok Jain and others following police have registered a case of murder, Pratapgarh Kotwali police said.
Pratapgarh Superintendent of Police, Shivraj Meena said, "We are getting the matter investigated and a case has been registered against four named accused in the FIR".
SHO, Pratapgarh Kotwali, Mangilal Bishnoi said that the body has been kept at district hospital for postmortem.
Police have been deployed considering the matter sensitive and to maintain law and order.
"We are investigating the case and no arrests have been made so far," he said.
"I FOLLOWED my father on Friday morning. He fell down before me, and died in front of my eyes,” said Sabira, 17. On Friday, civic body officials in Rajasthan’s Pratapgarh denied that they had assaulted Zafar Khan, leading to his death, after he objected to them taking photographs of women defecating in the open. On Saturday, Sabira and residents of Mehtab Shah Kutchi Basti said they witnessed the assault unfold and Khan die on the spot.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, they also said that women in the area have been facing harassment from the accused over a period of time on the issue of open defecation. They alleged that Pratapgarh Nagar Parishad officials, led by Commissioner Ashok Jain, visited the settlement early Friday morning, “as they do usually around 6 am”, and chased away women defecating in open, by “scaring us”, “kicking our water mugs” and “taking our photographs”. This time, they claimed, the officials also shoved the women who raised an alarm, which prompted Sabira’s father Zafar, 53, to rush out. A member of Rajasthan Construction Workers Union and district president of All India Central Council of Trade Unions, which is affiliated to the CPI (ML), Khan was the most vocal in the colony over such causes, said residents.
“He ran out when the women shouted and I followed him. My father tried to reason with the government employees, about 5-6 of them, and two women who were related to one of them. He told them not to click photographs but they first hit him in his stomach, then his head, and then his forehead,” said Sabira. “The men were kicking and punching him. He was all alone. That’s when he fell on the ground. Hearing the commotion, our neighbours came to mediate but my father just lay there and cried in pain. He died there,” she said. “Kamal, one of the government employees, shouted that he was bleeding but it was Zafar’s blood on his clothes,” said neighbour Shahida. Holding a stone with red marks, she said, “It is Zafar’s blood but who cares about evidence.”
Pratapgarh police have lodged an FIR under IPC section 302 (murder) against Jain and municipal employees Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan and Manish Harijan following a complaint filed by the family of Zafar — police has initially recorded the age of Zafar as 44. Jain has denied the charges and claimed that Zafar was alive when they left the spot following the fight. “My house is next to the spot and my wife woke me up following the noise. About 7-8 people were beating him up. I tried to intervene and others also came rushing. But he fell on that spot,” said Khushnood Khan, 35, a neighbour.
“The men then threatened to kill me and said they’ll burn my mother and the whole basti, before rushing away in their vehicle. Other men from the basti rushed my father to Pratapgarh district hospital,” said Sabira. “Doctors said he was brought dead,” said Nur Mohammad, Khan’s younger brother, on whose complaint the FIR was lodged.
On Saturday, the dozens of women gathered at Khan’s house claimed that they had been taking up the demand for toilets for over a decade at various levels. They claimed they had met District Collector Neha Giri Thursday over this issue but that she said their settlement was “questionable” and built on “government land”. Giri did not answer calls to her phone, and her office staff said that she was on leave.
When contacted, Dr O P Dayma, from the district hospital, said, “The tentative post-mortem report has found that Zafar died due to cardio-respiratory failure. However, what led to this failure can be ascertained only once we receive a report following a forensic and pathological inquiry of his liver, lung, spleen, kidney, etc.” Zafar’s wife, Rashida, questioned that assessment. “He was healthy. Why would he have a heart attack? The Parishad hated him as he cared for people of the basti and no one from the police or district administration has met us since his death,” said Zafar’s wife Rashida, between sobs. Pratapgarh SP Shivraj Meena said no arrests have been made in case yet. “We will decide only once the final report is out,” he said.
Zafar’s youngest brother Zulfiqar, meanwhile, took out a pile of files, with letters ranging about a decade to present and marked to district authorities, who Zafar hoped would listen. The content however, remained mostly the same: “regularisation of the basti”, “nearest school is five kilometres away”, “no water source in basti”, “we have been kept out of BPL cards.” “Whether Hindu or Muslim, he was always the first to lend a hand. All of us went to him when we had any trouble,” said Suraj, sitting among a crowd of people from the basti outside Zafar’s home. “He was poor but he would somehow help arrange funds for the marriages of our children,” said Nisar Khan.
Zafar’s mother Zeenat died a few years ago and his father Rustam Khan, in his 90s, lives with Zulfiqar a couple of kilometres away. Sabira’s sister Ruqsar, 19, is married. “Who will take care of my daughter now? How will I get Sabira educated? We were to get her Class IX result today from school but how will I support her? My husband used to run a small kirana store from home and make Rs 100-200 every day. But my daughter is not safe anymore, I am not safe anymore,” said Rashida as Sabira tried to console her.