Main Media English

Get Latest News, India News, World News at Main Media English

Support Us

Rising Custodial Deaths in Bihar’s Araria, Family Awaits Justice

tanzil asif Reported By Tanzil Asif |
Published On :

In the past two years, a series of custodial deaths and undertrial prisoners’ deaths in hospitals have brought attention to the dire situation in Araria district’s prisons. These incidents have highlighted a concerning trend, where the victims all belonged to economically weak, minority, or Mahadalit families.

Among those who lost their lives were Mohd Mumtaz, who passed away on May 13th, 2020; Mohd Ashfaq, who died on December 31st, 2020; Imran, who succumbed on February 27th, 2021; Naresh Dharkar, who passed away on June 14th, 2022; and Mohd Sajjad, who tragically died on July 16th, 2022.

Also Read Story

“SSB assaulted Shahbaz, force-fed alcohol after taking him to camp” – family alleges after youth dies in custody

Dainik Jagran’s False Reporting Exposed: Hindus not Migrating from their Villages in Seemanchal

Recent attention has also been drawn to the case of Mohd Waseeq, an undertrial prisoner currently receiving treatment at Sadar Hospital. Waseeq has leveled serious allegations against the jail administration, further highlighting the systemic issues within the prison system.

Mumtaz: A death during COVID-19

The tragic death of 29-year-old Mohd Mumtaz, a resident of Araria city’s Azad Nagar, has brought to light disturbing allegations of neglect and malnutrition within the prison system. Mumtaz, who was serving time for his involvement in a stabbing incident, passed away at Sadar Hospital in Araria after his health deteriorated while in jail.

The incident dates back to May 2020 when Mumtaz’s health began to decline while he was incarcerated at Central Mandal Kara Jail in Araria. His family claims that he had been in good health as long as homemade food was allowed to be brought to him in jail. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the practice was prohibited, leading to a significant decline in Mumtaz’s well-being.

“We did everything, he was alright. Then came the lockdown. Even after that, I brought him food,” expressed a grief-stricken family member. However, they were later informed that they were not allowed to meet Mumtaz, and the situation deteriorated further.

According to the family, Mumtaz’s health deteriorated to the point where he was weak, starving, and unable to receive proper medical attention. Allegations emerged that he fell multiple times a day, but due to fear of COVID-19, no one assisted him. Despite his repeated requests, he was not taken to a hospital until his condition became critical.

“He fell down 100 times a day, nobody picked him up for the fear of Corona. He wasn’t even taken to a hospital,” the family member explained.

Eventually, Mumtaz was admitted to Sadar Hospital, where he received saline and homemade food from his family. During his hospital stay, Mumtaz revealed the alleged mistreatment he endured in jail, claiming he was physically assaulted and received inadequate medical care.

“They were thrashed in jail for food and treatment. There was no homemade food and nobody to look after them in jail,” the family member said, sharing Mumtaz’s account.

Amid growing concerns about Mumtaz’s well-being, the family requested that he be transferred to another hospital for better care. However, they were instructed to obtain permission from local authorities, causing further delays. Eventually, Mumtaz was taken to Patna but returned in critical condition and passed away the next day.

The family insists that Mumtaz did not have any altercations with other inmates but had visible stitches on his hand, which they claimed were a result of mistreatment by jail authorities.

Ashfaq: Beaten with brooms and slippers

A land dispute between 48-year-old Mohd Ashfaq and his son turned tragic when Ashfaq lost his life while in custody at Araria Sadar Hospital. Ashfaq and his son were arrested on charges of involvement in a brawl over the disputed land. However, his family now alleges that his death was a result of negligence by the jail administration.

According to the family, Ashfaq was brought to the hospital for medical treatment on December 31, 2020, after spending three months in jail. Tragically, doctors at the hospital declared him dead upon arrival. The family claims that Ashfaq had been beaten with brooms and slippers while in jail, under the pretext of him being epileptic.

Recounting the events leading to her father’s death, Ashfaq’s brother Masoom, “One day I went to see him, and he asked me to bring him a vest. I promised to bring it the next day, but to my shock, I learned that he had passed away.” He further explained, “He started vomiting at night, and the doctors arrived only after much commotion. He was given two injections and two tablets, but he passed away soon after.”

The grieving family has accused the jail administration of negligence, asserting that Ashfaq was healthy before his incarceration and that his death was the direct result of the alleged mistreatment he suffered behind bars. When asked about the perpetrators, the family identified the ward incharge and other jail administration personnel, including individuals whose names they are unaware of.

Masoom, said, “I filed a case against the jail, but I have not received any postmortem report or compensation so far. I have been running around every day, spending a lot of money to seek justice for my brother.”

The family’s financial condition has worsened since Ashfaq’s death. Already burdened by debts incurred from their daughter’s wedding, the situation has deteriorated further. The daughter’s in-laws have refused to take her with them due to unmet dowry demands. Masoom emphasized their dire circumstances, stating, “They had their daughter married off and acquired loans of Rs 3-4 lakhs. My brother went to jail within a month of the wedding, and not even a penny of his debts has been lessened.”

Ashfaq’s son, who lives separately with his wife, is struggling to support his own family and has seemingly neglected his mother’s well-being. The daughter, who remains with her family, faces the emotional and financial distress of her in-laws’ demands for additional dowry, including cash and a vehicle, specifically an Apache.

Imran: Dragged like a dead animal

35-year-old Imran, a resident of Mahsaili village in Araria, was detained by Baunsi Police on the night of February 27, 2021, in connection with a murder case.

According to the police, Imran’s death was reported as a suicide. However, his family created a ruckus, accusing the police of murder. A week after the incident, Imran’s father, Layik, came forward and made startling claims about the events leading up to his son’s death. He alleged that the police had brutally beaten Imran and forcibly dragged him from their house “like a dead animal.”

“They took him away around 1 am at night without giving us any explanation,” Layik said. “I thought they took him away in relation to a particular case. By dawn, we received the devastating news of his death.”

When asked about the case Imran was allegedly involved in, Layik revealed that it was a divorce case.

Describing the manner in which Imran was taken into custody, Layik said, “17-18 cops picked him up here like they pick up a dead animal.” The family has filed a case against the police, but so far, there has been no progress in the investigation. Layik expressed frustration, stating that the correspondence related to the case seems to have gone missing.

When questioned about the names mentioned in their application, Layik clarified that it was a general application, and no specific names were mentioned. The family demands a thorough investigation into Imran’s death and justice for what they believe to be a case of police brutality.

The police authorities have not yet responded to the family’s allegations, and the case remains unresolved. The family continues to seek answers and justice for their loved one’s untimely demise.

Naresh: Accused of alcohol consumption

A daily wage laborer from the Fulkaha Police Station area, 37-year-old Naresh Dharkar, died while in police custody. Dharkar, a member of the Mahadalit community, was a daily wage laborer who had no land of his own. On the day of the incident, he had ventured out to gather bamboo for making baskets, a means to support his family. However, his plans took a tragic turn when Fulkaha Police intercepted him, accusing him of alcohol consumption, barely 500 meters away from his residence.

Naresh was immediately apprehended and taken to the Fulkaha Police Station. A week later, on the evening of June 14, 2022, Naresh’s wife, Solti Devi, received the devastating news of her husband’s death from the same police station that had detained him. Deeply distraught, Solti Devi accused the police of assaulting her husband.

“They thrashed him; that’s why my husband died,” Solti Devi lamented, pointing fingers at the Fulkaha Police Station. When questioned about the allegations, Fulkaha Police Station SHO Nagina Kumar vehemently refuted the claims, stating, “Not even a stick was used on him at the Police station. He was addicted to alcohol.”

Solti Devi, however, maintained that her husband had visible marks on his body, indicating physical abuse. She pointed to Naresh’s cheeks, identifying them as stick marks. When asked about the perpetrators, she firmly replied, “The cops… they thrashed him at the Police Station.”

Sajjad: Accused of selling alcohol

45-year-old rickshaw puller, Mohd Sajjad was arrested by Forbesganj Police and sent to Araria jail on July 14, on charges of selling alcohol. However, his daughter, Nikhat, claims that her father was wrongly accused and that there were signs of physical abuse on his body.

According to Nikhat, her father’s arrest was made after the police found liquor bottles in a passenger’s possession who had hired Sajjad’s rickshaw. However, instead of focusing solely on the passenger, the police also arrested Sajjad, accusing him of involvement in the illegal sale of alcohol.

When Sajjad was sent to Central Mandal Kara Jail in Araria, he was reportedly in good health. However, just two days later, on July 16, Nikhat received a distressing call informing her that her father had been admitted to Sadar Hospital. Accompanied by her brother, Nikhat rushed to the hospital, only to discover that her father’s body was being taken for a postmortem examination.

Nikhat alleges that there were visible injury marks on her father’s legs and hands, indicating that he had been subjected to brutal assault. “It seemed that my father was brutally thrashed and killed,” she tearfully stated. The family strongly believes that Sajjad’s death was a result of police brutality and demands justice for their loved one.

However, the Forbesganj Station House Officer (SHO) refuted the allegations made by Nikhat. The SHO claimed that Sajjad had a history of involvement in liquor-related cases and had been in jail on multiple prior occasions. He stated that Sajjad was arrested on July 13 and remained in custody throughout the day. On July 14, he was sent to Araria jail. The police claim that they were only informed of Sajjad’s death on July 16 by a man who had come from Araria.

Disputing the police’s version of events, Nikhat alleges that the man had deceived them. “He made us sign a paper stating that a person is needed to look after my father as he is unwell,” she revealed. However, upon reaching the hospital, they discovered Sajjad’s body, which bore injury marks and had toenails pulled out.

The family insists that Sajjad was in good health prior to his arrest and was not taking any medications or consuming intoxicating substances. They assert that his death was a result of physical abuse while in police custody.

Mohd Waseeq, a prisoner lodged in Araria Central Mandal Kara Jail, has come forward with shocking allegations of brutality against the jail administration. Admitted to Araria Sadar Hospital on June 14 in an injured condition, Waseeq claims that he was beaten by the jail administration while taking a stroll on the jail campus.

Waseeq: Attacked with a broomstick

Waseeq, a resident of Chainpur in Jokihat, is currently facing charges in a murder case. He alleges that the jail administration attacked him with a broomstick, causing serious injuries to his head and one eye. “I was hit here, here, and here,” Waseeq explained, pointing to different areas of his body.

When asked about the identity of the person who assaulted him, Waseeq mentioned a name, but it was unclear. He also stated that he was framed in the murder case that led to his imprisonment.

Need for police reform and accountability

The recent cases of custodial deaths in Araria district have brought attention to the need for police reform and accountability. According to official guidelines, an FIR (First Information Report) should be registered in the event of a custodial death, and the National Human Rights Commission must be informed within 24 hours. Additionally, video recordings of postmortems are deemed crucial in such cases.

Despite these guidelines, concerns have been raised regarding the handling of custodial deaths in Araria. Efforts to obtain comments from Araria SP and other police officers regarding the matter were unsuccessful. However, Jawaharlal Prabhakar, the Jail Superintendent, stated that FIRs have been registered in accordance with the rules, and an inquiry is being conducted after informing the National Human Rights Commission and Bihar Human Rights Commission.

Custodial deaths have become a pressing issue in Bihar, as highlighted by the statistics shared by MoS Home Nityanand Rai in the Lok Sabha. In the year 2020-21, 159 custodial deaths were registered in Bihar, and this number increased to 237 in 2021-22. Nationwide, there were 1,940 reported cases in 2020-21 and 2,544 cases in 2021-22.

The Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, a union for workers based in Araria, is demanding a thorough investigation into these cases. Ashish Ranjan, the organization’s Secretary, emphasized that the victims of custodial deaths are often among the poorest and most marginalized in society. He called for a comprehensive reform of the entire police department, stating that a feudal mindset and methods of the past prevail within the system.

The deaths of Naresh Dharkar and Mohd Sajjad within a month have raised suspicions. While the jail authorities claim that the deaths occurred in the hospital, it is alleged that they actually occurred in the jail premises. The postmortem report of Naresh Dharkar, obtained by the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, mentions “inconclusive” as the cause of death, despite the presence of injury marks on the body.

The lack of prompt and thorough investigations into these custodial deaths has further deepened concerns among activists and the local community. They believe that the poorest of the poor are suffering from such atrocities and that the existing system overlooks their plight.

Get involved in bringing the ground realities of Seemanchal. Click the "Support Us" button to join our membership.

Support Us

Tanzil Asif is a multimedia journalist-cum-entrepreneur. He is the founder and the CEO of Main Media. He occasionally writes stories from Seemanchal for other publications as well. Hence, he has bylines in The Wire, The Quint, Outlook Magazine, Two Circles, the Milli Gazette etc. Tanzil is one of six Indian journalists selected by YouTube in 2021 for its Creator Program for Independent Journalists. He is also a Josh Talks speaker, an Engineer and a part-time poet.

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *