On the night of April 24 this year, T Balaiah, a Scheduled Caste farmer of Kezhakadambur village in Cuddalore district, woke up to a loud bang on his front door. Even before he could fully unlock the door, a police officer waiting on the other side caught him by his neck and pulled him out of his house.
What transpired in the next 16 hours became a sensational case at the NHRC open hearing on August 7, when commission member Satyabrata Pal pulled up the police administration of Cuddalore for its shoddy probe into the incident and trampling of every norm that constitutes human rights.
On that dreadful night, Balaiah told Express, a contingent of at least 15 policemen, including the DSP of the area, descended on his house without a warrant or a memo. “When he pulled me out, I asked him what my offence was. He got so furious that he hurled verbal abuses at me in front of my family,” he recalls. According to his complaint to the commission, Balaiah said the DSP, along with other officers, explicitly abused him by mentioning his caste. When he protested, Balaiah said he was taken to the police station and beaten up.
“I repeatedly told them that I had recently had a cardiac surgery. But there was no respite from the blows,” he says. Balaiah was then allegedly tied down in the police station and refused water. It was only the next afternoon, when the DSP returned to the station, that Balaiah got some freedom. “I developed a fever. Seeing this, the officer asked a constable to take me to a hospital. However, I was left to fend for myself in the middle of the road,” said Balaiah, who then called his son before being admitted to a private hospital.
After Balaiah approached the Commission, a probe was launched into the incident. Surprisingly, the initial probe, as observed by Satyabrata Pal, was conducted by the same DSP against whom the charges were made. And as expected, the officer had given a clean chit to himself allegedly claiming that he was not part of the raiding party that went to the farmer’s house and the accusation that the victim was beaten up was false.
However, when it came to the knowledge of the higher-ups that it was the same officer who had conducted the probe, a second investigation by another DSP was ordered. But this report too absolved the officers of any offence. Passing his orders, Satyabrata Pal said: “It is clear that not much credence could be attached to the reports submitted. Hence, the Commission orders a fresh probe by an officer outside the district and a report in four weeks.”