On March 15, in Palitana, a town in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, policemen beat up a restaurant owner and his family members, paraded them on the streets while in handcuffs, and put them in custody.
What triggered the brutal police attack?
The Nodia family – Dilipbhai Yusufbhai Nodia and his five brothers – own six restaurants and a garment shop in Palitana.
For the last four or five years, their restaurants had become a source of free food for the Palitana police. Every day, the cops would barge into the restaurants, order food for personal use, for parties thrown by the officers, and even for the accused persons in custody.
However, the police have paid their bills on only two occasions, as alleged by the Nodia family.
“The police paid us Rs 10,000 and Rs 900, which does not even come close to the Rs 3 lakh they owe. Out of fear, we had never refused them free food in all these years. But after demonetisation last year, the business was affected badly,” Rajeshbhai Nodia, the youngest Nodia brother, told The Logical Indian.
As the business was incurring losses, Dilipbhai requested the policemen to clear the pending bills and denied them free food.
The next day, on March 15, a constable came to one of the restaurants at around 10 AM and said that a complaint was lodged in his nephew Ferozbhai’s name.
“Since my eldest brother, Dilipbhai, wasn’t there at the restaurant, Karimbhai (the second eldest brother) went to the police station with the constable. As soon as he reached, the police started beating him and my nephew, and then put them behind bars,” said Rajeshbhai.
Hearing the news, Dilipbhai went to the police station and questioned the officers on the wrongful arrest of his family members. But the police took him into custody as well.
“At around 5-6 pm, the police put all three of them in vans and made stops at each of our restaurants, abusing and shouting, ‘Aapko yaha dhanda karne dete hai, yahi bohut hai’ (The fact that we let you run your business here, is more than enough). They also dragged another nephew of mine – an 18-year-old boy – from one of the restaurants,” said Rajeshbhai.
Karimbhai and Ferozbhai were put in handcuffs, beaten, and paraded on the streets for hours, while police jeeps followed. “They did not even spare Dilipbhai’s wife, Jaibunben. By evening, all the family members were involved in the case,” said Rajeshbhai. “My nephew was beaten so badly that he had fainted at night, but instead of giving him medical help, the police put him in the lockup. Both Ferozbhai and Karimbhai were released on bail the next day.”
The women of the house had also rushed to the police station to stop the officers from beating their husbands and sons without cause. However, they too were beaten and abused in the police station. Jaibunben Nodia could not bear the assault and had to be taken to taken to the hospital, where she was admitted for two days.
Lodging of FIR against the Nodia family
The police filed an FIR against the Nodia family at 11 pm.
“Rajan Bhavanbhai Sanghvi, a local cloth merchant, who resides on the first floor of the building where one of the restaurants is located, was asked to file a fake FIR against us by the police. The complainant accused us of stealing Rs 2,000 from his shop. Following the FIR, the police slapped dacoity charges against 10 family members, including the women.” said Rajeshbahi.
Sanghvi was a former accused who had been in jail on charges of rape and had been out for three months on bail.
His FIR not only accused the family of dacoity but also pressed charges against them of having beaten him and of rioting, armed with deadly weapons.
The only family members who were not included in the FIR were Karimbhai and Ferozbhai as they were detained by the police in the morning and the FIR was lodged at night, and Rajeshbhai as he was out of town.
The Logical Indian contacted the Palitana Town Police Station for their comments.
The police allege that the attack on the Nodia family was in retaliation to the dacoity in Rajan Bhavanbhai Sanghvi’s shop, which turned violent. They said, “The FIR claimed that 7-8 members of the Nodia family entered Sanghvi’s shop, assaulted him and stole his money. Investigation of the FIR led us to arrest 2-3 members of the Nodia family. To identify the others accused we went to the family’s residence and this is when things turned violent. They started screaming for help, causing outrage in the Muslim community. A lot of people, including women, started attacking the police. While the police were trying to tackle the situation, one of the family members bit the wrist of ASI Haritsinh Mahipatsinh Raijada’s left hand. The police had to lathi charge on the both the family members and their supporters.”
“We did attack them, but it was because they attacked us first. The ASI’s hand had started bleeding. The family members also sustained some injuries, but we made sure that they received medical attention,” the police added.
When asked about the public parading of Karimbhai and his son on the streets, the police said, “We cannot comment on the video as it appears to be false. However, we can comment on the fact that we followed our duties.”
Appeal in the Gujarat High Court
After the incident, Rajeshbhai went to the Gujarat High Court, where IPS officer-turned-lawyer Rahul Sharma filed a petition on behalf of the family.
Following the case presented by advocate Sharma, the Court quashed the FIR and observed, “The proceedings of the criminal cases, referred to in the earlier part of the judgment, pending in the different courts, are hereby ordered to be quashed. The first information reports, which are yet to culminate in a charge sheet, are also hereby ordered to be quashed.”
However, as the Bhavnagar Court had granted Dilipbhai, Karimbhai, Faisal Bhai, Farooq Bhai and Nawab Nodia bail on the condition that they stay out of Palitana for three months, they are presently living with their family in a rented house in Gariardhar, about 35 km away from Palitana.
The Court is yet to pass a detailed order, which is due on 22 June.
A FIR has been lodged against the Palitana Police station, addressed to the Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar District. But action against the police is yet to be taken.
Advocate Sharma has also filed an RTI application, requesting to provide a copy of the CCTV footage from the CCTV cameras installed at the Palitana Town Police Station for the date 15 March 2017. It’s been 26 days and a reply to the RTI is also yet to come.
The Logical Indian Take
It’s been more than two months that all the six restaurants and the garment shop of Nodia family are shut.
“My brothers will return to Palitana in three months, but even then the business will continue to suffer if action against the police is not taken,” said Rajeshbhai. “This not the first time that the Palitana police have harassed a family. Six-seven years ago, another restaurant owner provided them free food, and had to eventually shut down his business as he could not bear the expenses.”
Since then, the police has been taking food from the restaurants of the Nodia family.
The assault on March 15 is a blatant misuse of power by the Palitana police who are meant to protect citizens and not brutally harass them.
On 22 Dec 2006, the Supreme Court of India had delivered a historic judgement instructing the central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives that laid down practical mechanisms to make the police force more people-centric. Our Prime Minister had also voiced the need of SMART – sensitive, mobile, alert, reliable and techno-savvy – policing in the country.
The Palitana police resorted to violence by attacking the Nodia family. Even if the Nodias were actually at fault, it does not give the police power to physically assault them.
It is essential that the state government and the Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar, take immediate and strict action against the officers involved in the attack.