HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM (HRF)
(Maanava Hakkula Vedika)
Hyderabad city unit Dt. 8 August 2015
Last Sunday night (2 August 2015), the Maredpally Police released from their custody Banappa, an auto-rickshaw driver, aged about 30 years, residing in Gandhi Nagar basthi. Banappa fell very ill in the morning and died. A six-member Human Rights Forum team went on a fact-finding visit to the locality on 4 August 2015, the day on which Late Bannappa’s body was cremated. The team met and gathered details from Banappa’s wife, other family members, residents of Gandhi Nagar and Valmiki nagar Basthis, local leaders, a resident doctor and the Maredpally police inspector.
On Sunday night there was a Bonalu procession on the Maredpally main road going toward Gandhi Nagar. Near the petrol pump on that main road, there was a minor conflict between some members of the procession and a police constable, who was not in his uniform. The residents of the area, that the team talked to said that he was on a visit to his relatives in Gandhi Nagar and had come to participate in the procession. While participating in the procession a minor conflict happened. But since it was insignificant and a small incident, the procession continued unaffected and the residents of the Basthi went back to their homes. They were not aware of the fact that the police constable went to the Maredpalli police station and lodged a complaint, with regard to the incident during the procession.
Later that night, around 9:45 PM, two constables from Maredpally police station came to Banappa’s house while he was having dinner. The constables informed Banappa’s wife that the police is taking him since they need to talk with him and that he’ll be sent back soon. According to Banappa’s wife, at the time the police took him, Banappa was a little intoxicated, just like many others who participated in the Bonalu procession. When Banappa didn’t return even by 11 PM that night, Banappa’s wife Sumitra, his mother and his brother Arjun went to the police station to request them to let Banappa go home. The Police, after making Banappa’s family wait for an hour outside the police station, asked them to come in and informed them that Banappa is in a state of intoxication and that they’ll release him in the morning, if they come then with their Ration Card and Rs. 500 for his bail. According to Banappa’s brother Arjun, the family went to the police station at 8:30 AM the next morning with their ration card, paid Rs. 500, and brought their brother home in an auto-rickshaw. Banappa’s mother informed the team that not only did Banappa not say a word, while coming home in the auto, but that after coming home tears welled up in his eyes as he tried to talk but couldn’t. He couldn’t even drink tea. There was a black bruise with swelling on his neck and his legs were very swollen. According to the brother, Banappa’s skin was bruised near his left shoulder and his face was very swollen. When they noticed that Banappa was in intense pain, the family took him to a local Doctor who informed them that his condition is very serious, that he cannot attend to Banappa and that he needs to be taken to Gandhi hospital. Another Doctor on the way also told them the same thing.
The wife, mother and brother took Banappa to the police station again around 8 PM, informed the police that they’re taking Banappa to Gandhi hospital. Since there are injuries on the body, they asked the police for a note to take along with them and show in the hospital as that is required in such cases. But the police said they have nothing to do with this case and shouted them away, telling them to go fend for themselves. The family persisted and finally the police sent a constable along with them to the hospital. Banappa’s brother and the constable followed the auto-rickshaw on a motorcycle. As the Auto approached Sangeet junction in Secunderabad, Banappa’s wife supposedly called his brother Arjun who was following them and told him that Banappa stopped breathing and he seems to have died. They turned the auto back and came back to the police station where Banappa’s wife and mother started crying loudly. Hearing this people on the road started gathering around them. As news of this spread and people started coming from their basthi, two Assistant-sub-Inspectors who were on the bandobast duty came to the P.S and then hurriedly took away Banappa’s body for a post-mortem examination. The youngsters and residents of the basthi got enraged when they realized that a healthy Banappa who was dancing with them just last night,died as soon as he was brought back from the police station. In their rage, they attacked the police station, burnt some random records and broke the window panes of a police vehicle parked there. According to the police, one of their drivers and three police constables got hurt in this attack.
At the time conducting the post-mortem , some elders from the basthi supposedly went inside and talked with the police and doctors. Banappa’s relatives claim that they weren’t shown Banappa’s body before the exam and that their signatures weren’t taken on the prescribed, procedural document that recorded the state of Banappa’s body. When our team talked with the Maredpally police inspector, he told us that a small incident got blown up unnecessarily. He further said that Banappa’s relatives refused to take Banappa home from the police station the night he was arrested. He also said that Banappa’s house was locked when he sent his policemen to ask his family to come to the P.S to get him. However, Banappa’s family claims that the Circle Inspector’s version of the story is not true. By the time our team visited, just one day after the attack, the police station was cleaned, painted and new furniture was brought in. Except for the broken glass of a computer monitor, there were no signs of any attack having happened there.
The local leader of the area there told us that having heard of the suspicious way in which Banappa died, the Minister Mr.Padma Rao had the local area leaders and police officers summoned through some local TRS party activists. The basthi elders informed us that Mr. Padma Rao tried to settle the issue saying “Whatever happened cannot be reversed. Do not fight about it. I’ll get some help from the government for the affected family.”
After having studied this incident carefully, our team has come to the conclusion ,”that had the police not taken the minor conflict during the procession as a challenge to their authority and not tried to teach Banappa a lesson that turned out to be very costly, his life would have been saved”. From all that we have gathered we can only conclude that the unnecessary rage and physical violence inflicted by the policemen on Banappa led to his sudden death. Gandhi Nagar, a basthi inhabited by the poor, has been notified by the government in 1983. Most people that live here are daily labourers and very small (mostly roadside) traders. While some women sell vegetables and fruits for a living, others work in well-off people’s homes in the nearby colonies. Banappa’s wife too works (as a maid) in three homes. Many residents of the area informed us that Bonalu is a very important festival for them during which having alcohol and eating meat is very common. They further told us that every year during this festival the police impose severe restrictions and unnecessary repression on them. The Maredpally police supposedly harass the residents of the basthi regularly. They supposedly don’t let go of even a small incident unless they are paid a bribe. The area residents claim that the local police are very angry with their basthi. About 30 families in this basthi have migrated from Karnataka about 40 years ago. Banappa’s is one such family.
1) The District Judge has to conduct an enquiry into this case of Banappa’s suspicious death soon after being released from one night’s police custody. (Even though the law says the District Judge has to enquire into every death in police custody, governments deliberately ,get a Revenue Divisional Officer to enquire into such incidents.)
2) Banappa’s wife has to be given employment by the government and his family sanctioned a house under some Government Scheme.
3) Youngsters and residents of the area must not be arrested and harassed under the pretext of the attack on the police station.
4) The Police and the Basthi elders must together make an effort to stop the harassment of basthi residents and work towards the creation of an understanding and cooperative climate.
- Jeevan kumar Syed Bilal
HRF State President HRF Hyderabad Joint-secretary
Members of the fact-finding team:
A. Kishan, Rajasekhar, Gowtham, Surya
Dr.K. Babu Rao, Hyderabad city committee President
B. Karthik Navayan, Hyderabad city committee Secretary (9346677007)