Gujarat police defend Kheda flogging of men in High Court: 'To maintain peace and harmony...'

Gujarat police defend Kheda flogging of men in High Court: 'To maintain peace and harmony...'

Police said flogging of Muslim men in a Kheda district village was to maintain peace and harmony after they had allegedly pelted stones at a garba venue.

FPJ BureauUpdated: Thursday, February 23, 2023, 12:21 AM IST
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Police baton-charge the suspected attackers arrested in the case by holding them against an electric pole in the village square in full public view. | Photo: Twitter Image

Even as a departmental chargesheet has been filed against six officials in the case, the Gujarat Police have told the Gujarat High Court that the October public flogging of Muslim men in a Kheda district village was to maintain peace and harmony after they had allegedly pelted stones at a garba venue.

Kheda’s Superintendent of Police Rajeshkumar Gadhiya stated this in an affidavit before the high court.

It was on October 3, 2022, night in Undhela village of central Gujarat’s Kheda district, a group of Muslim men allegedly pelted stones at a garba site near a mosque – the site was not the same as the previous year and was allegedly decided by the local BJP MLA. The next day, the local police dragged five Muslims, Zahirmiya Malek, Maqsudabanu Malek, Sahadmiya Malek, Shakilmiya Malek and Shahidraja Malek, who were accused of throwing the stones, in the village square.

They were then tied to a pole and then severely caned while the crowds cheered the cops doing this. Videos of the incident that went viral even showed the men being asked to apologise to the public while still being beaten.

The case reached the Gujarat High Court after the five men filed a petition how they were publicly flogged by the police and demanded action against 15 police personnel, including the inspector-general (Ahmedabad range), the Kheda superintendent of police, 10 constables of the Matar police station and the local crime branch in the Kheda district, an inspector of the local crime branch and two sub-inspectors.

Not just Gadhiya, two more affidavits were also by other accused policemen. One of them, Sub-Inspector Hetal Rabari tendered an unconditional apology but claimed that the flogging was to ensure the law and order situation didn’t slip out of control and “to prevent any kind of communal riots”.

He also submitted in the court that the petitioners were trying to gain sympathy by mentioning that one of the persons flogged was 62 years old, but they did not disclose that he was accused of rioting in the past and was a prime accused in the Godhra train burning incident.

Another affidavit by Police Inspector AV Parmar stated that the petitioners had ignited an atmosphere of fear and terror in the village. Parmar even went to the extent of saying the police action was “within the scope and ambit of their powers” and that such an act of flogging was “the discharge of their duties”.

Interestingly, the claims of the accused cops fly in the face of an interim report by the deputy superintendent of police of Kapadvanj division that the officials were there to “control the accused persons using other means and shift them to other safe places." It is this interim report that is the basis of a departmental chargesheet against the six accused cops stating that they were “prima facie found involved in the incident of physical abuse”.

In fact, soon after the incident in October, human rights body Amnesty International had called the flogging of the Muslim men “a serious human rights violation” smacking of total disrespect towards the law.

Amnesty had asserted, “We remind the Gujarat Police that punishment is never a legitimate objective for a law enforcement action, even if using less lethal weapons. In this case, it blatantly ignored the guiding principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and accountability.”

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