Uttarakhand: Cop ‘assaults’ two tourists for using pepper spray in ‘self-defence’ against ‘extortion’

The tourists were returning from Tehri after New Year’s celebrations.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
A picture of the victim with an illustration of the map of Uttarakhand.

Two tourists were allegedly locked up for eight hours and assaulted by the police in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district on January 2 for using pepper spray on three locals in “self-defence” against extortion, one of them has alleged in a complaint to the Uttarakhand State Human Rights Commission.   

Vishnu Prasad, who works for a Delhi-based NGO, was returning to the national capital on a bike after New Year’s celebrations in Tehri when the incident occurred. He was accompanied by two other friends on another bike –  Akshay Dev, a masters student of heritage, and Christo Joseph, a video editor. All three are around 26-year-old natives of Kerala. 

Prasad’s knuckles were swollen and right hand fractured, showed the medico-legal report prepared by Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. Dev also suffered minor injuries on his hands.

In the complaint, Prasad alleged that police constable Nitesh Kumar at the Gurkul Narsan police check post assaulted them and also used their vehicle’s keychain to inflict injury. He said the police person was prejudiced and made remarks on the youths’ hairstyle and jewellery.   

Prasad said Nitesh asked the youths, “Why are you travelling at night?” He allegedly also objected to Dev’s long hair and Prasad’s eyebrow piercings. “We finally left from the check post at 11 am the next day,” said Prasad. 

The complaint, lodged a day after the incident, read: “The constable (Nitesh) was biassed and judgements were made with the hairstyle and jewellery we had and he beated us. He put us in lockup and he used our own vehicle's keychain to beat at the backside of the palm with an intention to sabotage the entire working of the hands as we were brought to the police station. We were brought to the police station because we used pepper spray as a self defensive mechanism when a dhaba owner tried to extort money from us.” 

On being asked about the alleged assault, Haridwar SP (rural) Swapan Kishore Singh referred Newslaundry to the Manglor police station in-charge in whose jurisdiction the check post falls.

Manglor PS in-charge Pradeep Bisht denied police assault in the lock-up. “The injuries are due to the fight between the youths and a dhaba owner. They were taken to the check post and kept there for barely 1-2 hours. The dhaba owner was also called and the matter was resolved there,” said Bisht, conceding that one Nitesh Kumar is a constable at the check post.  

Bisht said each of the three youths were fined under section 81 of the Uttarakhand Police Act. The section deals with public nuisance and mandates a minimum fine of Rs 500. 

However, Prasad denied any furniture was damaged. “The dhaba owner alleged that we damaged his furniture, which we did not. We had to pay him Rs500 too.”

What happened at the dhaba?

Prasad said it was well past midnight on January 2, when the three youths stopped at a dhaba to buy cigarettes, and the poor mobile network delayed its online payment at the shop. 

As the payment did not go through, the dhaba owner lost his cool. Subsequently, the youths returned the cigarettes and headed towards their bikes to leave. 

But soon, the dhaba owner and two of his friends tailed the youths up to the bikes. They held up one bike and tried to extort money from Prasad and Dev. Prasad, who was carrying pepper spray, used it on the three locals and fled on foot.

The locals then called the police, and Prasad and Dev were caught and taken to the Gurkul Narsan check post, where constable Nitesh allegedly hit their knuckles and arms with the keychain of their bike. 

After the two youths were held up, Joseph, who had managed to escape, returned to the check post.

Prasad said, “Nitesh was angry that we defended ourselves against the blows… He was not interested in investigating the case.” On reaching Delhi, he was admitted at Safdarjung Hospital. 

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