A group of men, including a journalist, were forced to strip down to their undergarments in police custody in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi town, PTI reported on Thursday.
The incident allegedly took place on April 2.
The journalist, Kanishk Tiwari, was covering a protest against the arrest of a theatre artist named Neeraj Kunder, NDTV reported. Kunder was arrested for allegedly making indecent remarks on a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kedarnath Shukla and his son Kedar Gurudutt Sharan Shukla using a fake Facebook profile.
Tiwari and the other persons have been booked under Indian Penal Code sections that provide punishment for assault, preventing a public servant from discharging duties, wrongful restraint, intentional insult, and acts done by several persons with wrongful intention.
Tiwari, in a video on Facebook, said that he is a stringer for the news channel News Nation, and that he also runs a YouTube channel called MP Sandesh News 24. He said that on April 2, he was pushed and forced into a police station in Sidhi town.
“I was beaten up and forced to remove my clothes,” he said. “I was paraded in the station, and was told that I would be paraded in my undergarments if I published news articles against the MLA or the police.”
Tiwari said that a cameraperson, Aditya Singh Bhadauria, was also with him. He added that ten people, including himself, were arrested at 8 pm on April 2 and were released at 6 pm on April 3.
The journalist alleged that the police defamed him by releasing the photos on social media. He also claimed that the police threatened to file more cases against him.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took note of the matter and called for action against the police officials involved, according to NDTV.
The Madhya Pradesh police on Thursday ordered an internal inquiry into the matter. “Sub-Divisional Police Officer Gayatri Tiwari will inquire into the matter and subsequent action will be taken against whoever is found guilty,” said Sidhi SP Mukesh Shrivastava to The Indian Express. “Irrespective of the crime committed by the culprits, such action [of stripping] is not acceptable.”
Manoj Soni, the person in-charge of the Kotwali police station, where the incident allegedly occurred, has been suspended. The police said that Station House Officer Abhishek Singh has also been “line-attached”, or shunted out of field duties.
Soni claimed that the men were made to strip due to security considerations. “The men were not completely naked,” he said. “We keep people in their undergarments in police custody so that they do not attempt to hang themselves.”
The police also said that they will act against those who shared the photos on social media.
The Congress’ Madhya Pradesh unit criticised the state government and termed the incident as a “shameful act” of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government. “What is this, if not jungle raj?” it asked on Twitter.