'Routine' inspections by police past midnight, extortion racket and Yogi's 'Thok doh' policy
A free hand given to the police, admit officials in Uttar Pradesh, made sections of UP Police go rogue. In Gorakhpur people openly talk how police target guests in hotels and extort money
Uttar Pradesh Government has been busy firefighting, dousing one fire after another in recent weeks. After hurriedly handing over the mysterious ‘suicide’ of Narendra Giri to the CBI to investigate, it has been forced to scramble and contain the damage following the death of a Kanpur businessman Manish Gupta (38) in a Gorakhpur hotel.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has contained the damage for the time being by offering a cash compensation, a job to the widow and promises of more to come. But he himself is vulnerable to growing discontent as people start questioning the free hand he gave to the UP Police, which has become a law unto itself.
The fact that the six policemen involved in the incident were allowed to 'abscond' without undergoing any interrogation or medical examination, speaks for itself. Also the fact that the police took away all 36 CCTV cameras in the hotel, including the ones on the fifth floor where the deceased's room was, is also revealing.
The incident also calls into question the conduct of the police. In case of any tip-off or suspicion, police can surely question guests in the hotel at dinner time or early in the morning ? Why would they go around waking up guests past midnight demanding that they fish out their ID cards, which they may have already shown to the reception and which might have been duly recorded in the Register? This 'routine' midnight inspection by the police needs to be reviewed urgently.
An only son, the deceased businessman had got married barely five years ago. A property dealer, he left behind his widow and a four year old son. His widow, Meenakshi M. Gupta claimed that her husband had gone to Gorakhpur, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf, at the invitation of a businessman in Gorakhpur. Two other property dealers from Gurgaon were also invited and all three were put up in the hotel.
While all eyewitness accounts suggest the deceased died after being assaulted by the policemen, even on Thursday, September 30, ADG (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar claimed that the businessman had died after trying to flee from the police. The Gorakhpur SP parroted the police version that they were still ascertaining what the deceased was doing and why there were three men together from different cities. UP Police in another desperate bid alleged that the deceased was drunk. But they would not say if the policemen too were drunk.
They seemed oblivious to the post-mortem report which recorded injuries on the businessman’s head, face and other parts of the body. Even more surprisingly, six policemen had been suspended (unconfirmed reports at the time of writing held that the CM had ordered them to be dismissed), an ex-gratia sum of Rs. 10 lakh had been announced and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath planned to visit the family of the deceased.
UP Police yet again is finding it difficult to defend its conduct. While police routinely visit hotels at night to check on guests and details filled in registers, there was no reason for them to barge into the room past midnight. While it was not immediately clear if the hotel reception had a CCTV camera (most hotels these days do), police claimed they found it suspicious that two men from Gurgaon and one from Kanpur were sharing the same room in the hotel.
The deceased’s family claimed that all three were into real estate and had been working together. One of them told the media that they were all asleep when the police woke them up and demanded to see their identity proof. Even after the two of them showed their identity proof, policemen insisted on waking up the deceased who was still asleep. Jolted awake, the deceased was upset and demanded an explanation. That was enough to provoke the policemen to start beating him up. The other two were pushed out of the room and some time later they saw the deceased, his face bloodied, being dragged away.
Why the deceased would attempt to escape remains unexplained. With at least three policemen in the hotel room (the other three stood outside with the other two guests), it would have been a very desperate and a hopeless attempt to flee. But 72 hours after the incident, the statements of the policemen had not yet been recorded. Nor had they been medically examined or interrogated separately by seniors. Retired police officers say all these steps should have been completed within 24 hours.
The death is being attributed to the free hand given to the police by the chief minister. It is alleged that policemen might have reached the hotel to extort money from the businessmen who were all outsiders. While the demand to arrest the policemen and charge them with culpable homicide is growing, in a related development the widow of the deceased businessman alleged that her social media account had been deleted at the instance of the government.
Sources in Gorakhpur said that the Police Inspector leading the team had been accused in the past too for involvement in suspicious deaths. This is the first time, however, that he has been suspended and a case lodged against him.