Two former lawmakers stage indefinite hunger strike demanding justice for Dalit youth who died in custodyThe struggle committee warns of continuous demonstrations unless their demands are addressed.
Two former lawmakers have started an indefinite hunger strike at Garuda in Rautahat district, demanding justice for 19-year-old Bijay Mahara who died after allegedly being tortured by police in custody.
Bishwendra Pasawan and Ramprit Paswan have been staging a fast-unto-death strike outside the Area Police Office in Garuda since Tuesday evening, demanding a fair investigation into Bijay’s death. As the health of Bishwendra deteriorated overnight, he was given saline solution on Wednesday.
Bijay and six others were arrested on August 19 in connection to the murder of Niranjan Ram, a local teenager, in Garuda Municipality. Bijay died on August 26 at National Medical College in Birgunj. His family members have claimed that he was tortured in custody.
Police have been saying that Bijay died in the course of treatment for a kidney ailment.
However, a video of Bijay, which was taken in hospital prior to his death, shows him saying that he was indeed tortured by plainclothes police and forced to confess to the August 16 murder of 17-year-old Niranjan.
Bijay’s death has sparked protests in Rautahat. Friends and relatives of the Dalit youth, local people and rights activists have been staging demonstrations in Garuda Bazar for the past one week. They have refused to accept the probe committee formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and called for the formation of an impartial investigation team to find the truth behind the death of Bijay as well as Niranjan, action against the guilty and suitable compensation to the family of the deceased.
Family members and friends of Bijay have claimed that Police Inspector Nabin Singh and the head constable duo Munna Singh and Firoj Alam, had tortured Bijay at the instruction of the District Police Office. "The police involved in torturing him should be punished," demanded Panilal, Bijay's father.
Following widespread protests, the Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday suspended Inspector Singh of the District Police Office, Gaur. While the Janakpur Police Office suspended the two head constables—Feroz Miya Dhuniya and Mannu Kumar Singh— for their alleged involvement in the incident.
The demonstrators have also been demanding that the police release four other youths who were arrested with Bijay.
"We will continue our protest until and unless our demands are addressed," said Sonelal Ram, the coordinator of a struggle committee formed to demand justice for Bijay.
The local administration has called the families of Bijay and Niranjan to sit for talks, but to no avail.
"The two sides have so far refused our invite for a dialogue," said Indradev Yadav, the Chief District Officer of Rautahat.
A source at the Area Police Office in Garuda said that three police officers from the crime branch of the District Police Office had tortured Bijay in custody bypassing an investigation officer designated to probe Niranjan murder case.
According to the source, they took Bijay and Sikendra Pasawan, another suspect, to a detention room and forced them to confess to the Niranjan’s murder.
Niranjan’s body was discovered by locals on August 15. A police team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Gyan Kumar Mahato, the then chief at the Area Police Office in Garuda, had then reached the site to collect the body and look for evidence. A team, led by Inspector Kedarman Dong, was formed to investigate the case.
The team detained Sheikh Aazad and 10 other locals, including Bijay, on August 16. Four of the suspects were released the next day.
On August 18, Superintendent of Police Rabiraj Khadka, the district police chief, deployed Inspector Nabin Singh and the head constable duo Munna Singh and Firoj Alam, to Garuda to investigate the Niranjan murder case.
Inspector Dong refused to give details about the incident, nor did he say anything about the Inspector Singh-led team taking over the investigation.
"I am not in the position to reveal the details. You can ask DSP Mahato about it," he said.