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A Dalit man was found dead in police custody on Thursday, February 27, in Barmer district of Rajasthan a day after the police whisked him from his home in a theft case. The 26-year-old deceased has been identified as Jitendra Khatik alias Jitu and is survived by his wife and a son.
The deceased family has filed a complaint against the police based on which the SHO of the Barmer rural police station, Deep Singh, as well as other police officials have been booked under section 302 of the IPC.
Barmer superintendent of police Sharad Chowdhary told the media that the judicial magistrate would conduct the post-mortem of the body. "The SHO has been suspended, and the entire police station staff has been sent to the lines as per NHRC guidelines. Khatik was accused of possessing stolen goods, and the SHO had received information in this regard following which he was brought to the police station for questioning. No FIR was registered against him. He died today morning,"
After the incident came to light, the police department sent the staff of the entire police station to the lines and suspended the house officer of the police.
"We run a kabaadi (scrap) shop in the city. Yesterday afternoon, officials from the Barmer rural police station came to our shop and took my elder brother along with them, accusing him of possessing stolen goods. They also threatened to put my entire family in lockup. Later, when we went to the police station in the evening, Jitu told us to take him home otherwise the police would kill him," Champalal, the younger brother of Khatik told The Indian Express.
When Khatik's family went to meet him on Thursday morning, they were not allowed to meet him.
"We were waiting outside the police station when suddenly the cops said that my brother has fallen ill. When we saw him, he was already dead…But the police told us to take him to the hospital. When we took him there, the doctors declared him dead," said Champalal.
The family members of the deceased, Dalit rights groups, and Khatik community members, protested in Barmer and refused to take the body or allow the post-mortem.
"This is a clear case of murder by the police. We demand that a murder case be registered against the police, the accused be arrested immediately, a compensation of ₹1 crore and a government job for his family members," said Sharvan Kumar, chief of the Khatik Samaj in Barmer and the district president of the Congress SC cell in Barmer.
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