Suicide or custodial killing: How did a convict on parole end up dying in a Delhi police station?

Dharmendra Kashyap, 40, was found hanging in the Samaypur Badli police station’s lockup last month. His family allege that he was tortured to death.

Suicide or custodial killing: How did a convict on parole end up dying in a Delhi police station?
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On the morning of September 20, Dharmendra Kashyap, 40, was found hanging in the lockup at Delhi’s Samaypur Badli police station. He was taken to the nearby Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital, where he was declared brought dead.

A day before, Kashyap had been arrested from his sister’s home in Libaspur village in north Delhi for allegedly sexually harassing a 14-year old girl. From there, he was taken to the Swaroop Nagar police station.

When I visited his sister’s home in Libaspur on September 21, the family were returning from his cremation. A few people from the locality were sitting in a tent outside the house.

Kashyap had been convicted of robbery and murder in 2005, and was serving a life sentence in Delhi's Tihar Jail. He was paroled for a month in February and the parole was later extended in view of the coronavirus pandemic. According to news reports, he had also been convicted of sexual misconduct with a 10-year-old boy.

His family alleged that Kashyap was taken by the police from Libaspur on the pretext of some investigation about his parole. Once in custody, they claimed, he was “framed in a false case”, and brutally beaten through the night. He died from the beating, the family alleged, and the police “staged” his suicide. Subsequently, a constable named Yashveer was suspended for negligence and a magisterial inquiry was ordered.

The police rejected the allegation, asserting that Kashyap had died by suicide.

Kashyap’s nephew, Neeraj, gave a detailed account of the incident to Newslaundry. “The assistant sub inspector of Swaroop Nagar police station, Ram Narayan, called at about 6 pm and said they had to question my uncle about his parole,” he said. “My uncle was here. Later two policemen, one of them Ram Narayan, came in civilian clothes and arrested him. Ram Narayan called again at 9 pm and told us that our uncle had been arrested for rape and we could go meet him. They called again and allowed us to speak to him at 11 pm. That’s when he told us that he was being tortured although he was innocent.”

Neeraj continued, “We reached the police station at about 11.30 pm but we weren’t allowed to meet him and a sub-inspector, Premlata, misbehaved with us. We saw three-four policemen through the grill door smashing his head on the wall and beating him with a stick. They were also forcibly feeding him liquor. We asked for a copy of the FIR but they didn’t give us that either and asked us to leave.”

A furious Neeraj recounted how the family were made to go around in circles to get a glimpse of Kashyap, only to find him dead in the police station.

“In the morning at 7, his wife Kanchan and mother Premvati went to the Swaroop Nagar police station to meet him but they were told he was at the Samaypur Badli police station. They went there but weren’t permitted to meet him. When they somehow managed to go inside at 10.30 am, he was hanging from a noose. They took him to the Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital in the station house officer’s vehicle, but he was already dead.”

Neeraj and his family have been demanding answers from the police about his uncle’s death but they haven’t been forthcoming. “He had bruises all over his body but there were no rope marks on his neck,” Neeraj alleged. “How can someone who has spent 20 years behind bars commit suicide in a day? This is a clear murder! Inside the lockup, how did he get access to the bedsheet he was hanging with? Only blankets are given in the lockup. Also, postmortem is performed above the torso, so why did his feet have marks of injuries?”

“Why is the administration silent now? Why was the constable suspended if my uncle hung himself?” Neeraj continued. “Why was the police escorting us to the cremation ground? Even if he had committed a crime, the law would have punished him. Who are these people to punish him like this? He died from police beatings. We want justice and whosoever is involved in this should be punished.”

As Neeraj spoke with Newslaundry, the relatives and neighbours gathered around him nodded in agreement and occasionally interjected. Guddu, one of the neighbours, remarked, “The responsibility of ensuring safety inside a police station rests with the police.”

“He was still labouring for 300 rupees a day for his children,” said Sukhpal Singh, a relative of Kashyap’s. “In Tihar, he would make four-five thousand rupees a month working.”

To get a clearer picture of how Kashyap had died, I went to the Swaroop Nagar police station.

I met head constable Subhash at the entrance. He said all his superior officers were in a meeting at the Samaypur Badli police station, and I should make enquiries there. When I mentioned Dharmendra Kashyap, he stopped me from entering the police station and instructed other police personnel there to not speak to me. One policeman, however, did speak. He said Kashyap had been shifted to Samaypur Badli for lack of space in the Swaroop Nagar lockup.

At the Samaypur Badli police station, I was stopped some 500 meters away. When I asked to speak with the deputy commissioner of police, Gaurav Sharma, a Station House Officer said they had already issued a statement to the media.

I also tried meeting Subhash Meena, the SHO of Swaroop Nagar, but was told that he was unavailable. When I called him on his phone, he directed me to the same statement released a day before. On further probing, he said, referring to the victim, “He raped a girl in Swaroop Nagar. He was arrested in that matter. He committed suicide here, inside the lockup.”

Asked about the allegations levelled by Kashyap’s family, Meena said, “It isn’t so. He was already convicted in two separate cases and was out on parole. He didn't have any permanent dwelling either.”

A version of this story was previously published on Newslaundry Hindi.

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