The Madhya Pradesh government Wednesday night removed Guna District Magistrate S. Vishwanathan and Superintendent of Police Tarun Nayak after a Dalit couple consumed pesticide in protest against an anti-encroachment drive. In response, police allegedly beat up a relative of the couple.
A purported video of the incident, which showed the police hitting the Dalit man mercilessly with batons and his wife and others trying to save him, went viral on social media and sparked controversy.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi condemned the attack, saying "our fight is against this injustice".
Sharing the video of the assault on Twitter, Gandhi said, "Our fight is against this mindset and injustice".
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Earlier, former Chief Minister Kamal Nath had targeted the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in the state. "Where is Shivraj government taking the state to? What is this jungle raj? Barbaric lathicharge by policemen of Cantt police station area in Guna," Nath wrote on Twitter.
"Even if there is a dispute regarding the land, it can be resolved legally, but in this way taking the law in hand, beating him, his wife, family and innocent children so ruthlessly, where is the justice? Is it because he belongs to a Dalit family, and is a poor farmer?" he further wrote, attaching a video clip of the incident.
Facing criticism from the opposition, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had earlier ordered transfer of the collector and Superintendent of Police.
The condition of the couple which had consumed pesticide is now stable, police said, adding that the police were compelled to use force against them as they resisted the eviction.
"The (farm) land was reserved for a government model college. Rajkumar Ahirwar (38) and his wife Savitri (35) were working on the land. Gabbu Pardi, who had encroached on the land, had given them work," said district collector S Vishwanathan.
When officials asked them to vacate the field, they protested and drank pesticide at the behest of those who had encroached on the land, he claimed.
The two also refused to go to hospital so the police had to use force to take them to hospital, the collector claimed.
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