On Saturday (April 2), the friends and relatives of a theatre artist named Neeraj Kunder stormed the Kotawali police station in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh to protest against his arrest in connection with abusing a BJP legislator and his son.
BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla had filed a complaint with the Kotwali police station against Kunder, following which a case was registered on March 16 this year. The theatre artist had made abusive posts against Shukla and his son Gurudutt on Facebook using a fake ID named ‘Anurag Mishra.’
Neeraj Kunder, who runs the theatre group ‘Indravati Natya Sansthan’, was arrested by the Kotwali police station on April 2, 2022. A frenzied mob of 40-odd people, comprising of friends and relatives of the theatre artist, laid siege at the police station.
The mob was joined by journalist Kanishk Tiwari, who runs a Youtube channel by the name of ‘MP Sandesh News 24‘. Reportedly, the police first resorted to using force against the mob before detaining them under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 151 (unlawful assembly). They were released after a few hours.
यह मप्र के सीधी जिले के पुलिस थाने की तस्वीर है। यह अर्धनग्न युवा कोई चोर उचक्के नहीं है, ये लोकतंत्र के चौथा स्तंभ कहे जाने वाले मीडिया के साथी है, इन्हें अर्धनग्न कर जेल में इसलिए डाला गया क्योंकि इन्होंने भाजपा विधायक के खिलाफ खबर चलाई थी। pic.twitter.com/k5wVLQsVhF— Jaivardhan Singh (@JVSinghINC) April 7, 2022
On Thursday (April 7), a picture featuring journalist Tiwari and 8-9 relatives of jailed Neeraj Kunder went viral on social media, wherein they were seen standing against a wall in their underwear. The contentious image criticism from all corners, thereby forcing the Madhya Pradesh government to issue an internal investigation into the matter.
According to journalist Kanishk Tiwari, he had gone to the Kotawali police station to cover the ‘protests’ by the friends and relatives of Neeraj Kunder. He alleged that the police thrashed him and forced him to strip to his undergarments. Tiwari claimed that he was targeted for critical stories against BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla.
Police defend action, probe initiated
In its defence, the Kotawali police said that the demonstrators were detained for disturbing the peace under the pretext of protests. Charges were filed against the mob under Indian Penal Code Sections 34 (common intention), 152 (obstructing public servant while preventing riots) 153 (provocation), 186 (obstructing public servant on duty), 341(wrongful restraint) and 504 (intentional insult).
Station House officer Majoj Soni went on to say that it was a normal practice in jails to prevent people from committing suicide. “We keep them in jail in this way so that they cannot commit suicide using their clothes,” he emphasised.
The viral pictures of the protestors and journalists in undergarments triggered a controversy, with opposition Congress leaders, including ex-minister Jaivardhan Singh and social activists, including Ajay Dube, demanding stern action against the responsible cops.
“We keep them in jail in this way so that they cannot commit suicide using their clothes,” SHO Manoj Soni had said.— ANI (@ANI) April 8, 2022
While speaking to The Indian Expres, Superintendent of Police (Sidhi) Mukhesh Shrivastava assured that action will be taken against those found guilty. He had also ordered a probe into the matter, which will be supervised by Sub-Divisional Police Officer Gayatri Tiwari.
“Irrespective of the crime committed by the culprits, such action (of stripping) is not acceptable. Based on prima facie evidence, we have attached Town Inspector Manoj Soni and Station House Officer Abhishek Singh to the police line. Since Singh was present in the police station at that time, he is also being transferred out,” SP Mukhesh Shrivastava had remarked.
He concluded, “It was in this context that they were held under preventive detention. But why they were stripped off their clothes and who did that is being investigated. The concerned SDPO under whom the police station falls has been asked to inquire the matter and whoever is responsible, action will be taken against them.”