Demand for magisterial inquiry

Odiya migrants’ protest in Surat


Gujarat civil rights activists Krishnakant Chauhan of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Sanjay Patel of the Ajeevika Bureau, in a letter to chief minister Vijay Rupani, with copies to chief secretary Anil Mukim, DGP Shivanand Jha and Surat commissioner of police RB Brahmbhatt, have demanded immediate action against the cops responsible for the death of a migrant worker during police action in the Amroli Police Station, Surat, at Anjani Industrial Estate-1.
Stating that this is not the first of instance where people have suffered police high-handedness during lockdown period, the letter insists, the Gujarat government should follow the National Human Rights guidelines on ‘Death during Police Action’ in this matter.

Text:

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed severe health challenge to India and the world. The Government of India as a step to contain the spread of deadly pandemic declared lockdown throughout the country since 25th of March, extending it thrice. The lockdown will continue into its fourth phase post May 17 as announced by the Prime Minister in his address to the nation.
The lockdown has also resulted in a humanitarian crisis with crores of people losing their livelihood, as industries and economic activities were prohibited.
There have been several reports on how the migrants are going through difficult times without money and food to survive. The government efforts have fallen short to ensure security and douse the ensuing anxiety among the distressed migrant labours. The belated efforts to allow transportation for them to reach their natives has led to protests in many places throughout India, including Gujarat.  Surat is an industrious city and we have lakhs of workers from different states of India. There is heightened anxiety and sense of distrust and dejection on the government efforts as people could neither get enough to eat or could get free ration from government scheme and the adhoc transportation efforts. The process of transportation arrangements have been opaque and confusing at times. And have led to exploitation of the poor migrants.

The Incident:

With no proper avenue to get true/correct and proper information about transportation the labours have also been approaching the police for help and assistance. A group of Odisha migrant labours from Anjani Industrial Estate have been visiting the Amroli police station for this purpose.
After several assurances, but no action, on May 14 night a group of labourers went to Police station to enquire about the arrangements for transport. Not getting proper reply there was heated arguments with the police at the police station. This group was chased away into Anjani Industrial Estate, Vibhag-1.
Nowhere to run, with police threatening the distressed labourers with lathis, people got into some industrial units. On hearing the shutter of their unit being banged at Satya Swain, who lives inside the premises of Gopinath Textile, Plot 158-160, Anjani Industrial Estate, Vibhag-1 and is employed with the unit went and opened the shutter. The police personnel without giving him a chance to respond or without ensuring if he was part of the group at the police station, was severely beaten leading to his death. As we have learnt the police have also seized the CCTV of the unit into their custody.
This is not a first of instance where people have suffered police high handedness during this lockdown period. There are several representations by the industries, doctors and other essential service staff in this regard, including reported cases in media.
We demand that:

  1. National Human Rights guidelines on ‘Death during Police Action’ be followed in this matter.
  2. FIR be registered in the matter. 
  3. Ensure the CCTV confiscated by the police not be tempered with. 
  4. Autopsy ascertaining the cause of death, in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for video-filming and photography of post-mortem examination in case of death in police action’. 
  5. Immediate suspension of police personnel involved in the incident, pending inquiry.
  6. Magisterial enquiry be conducted into the incident.

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