A group of government officials from Rajasthan allegedly beat a 55-year-old man to death for trying to stop them from photographing women defecating in public in Pratapgarh town on Friday, reported the Hindustan Times. Five municipal council officials, including the commissioner, allegedly kicked, punched and beat Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) activist Zafar Khan to death, said a police complaint filed by the deceased’s brother.

The incident happened near Bagwasa Kachi Basti area at around 6.30 am where a few women were defecating outside, reported PTI. The officials were out on a round to photograph people excreting in the open when the incident occurred, reported the Hindustan Times.

The man’s brother Noor Mohammad has lodged a complaint against Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan, Manish Harijan, Nagar Parishad commissioner Ashok Jain and others, said PTI. Police have registered a case of murder against the five officials. “We are investigating the case and no arrests have been made so far,” said Pratapgarh station house office Mangilal Bishnoi.

But Commissioner Ashok Jain claimed that he had no idea how Zafar Khan died, as the man was “in perfect health” when he left the area following the incident. “We went to the slum to spread awareness about the adverse effects of open defecation. This man, Zafar Khan, arrived there and started abusing us and later also assaulted one of our sanitation staff. Following that, he left the place and returned to his home. At that time he was perfectly healthy,” said Jain. He also denied that his team tried to humiliate people defecating in the open. Instead, he claimed that his team met the people and heard their grievances before taking feedback. Jain asserted that his team had gone to the police station to file a complaint against Khan, but heard that he had died.

After Khan’s death, protestors blocked the highway for hours (pictured above). Muslim community leaders claimed that the assault was communally targeted. Khan’s family and the protestors demanded compensation and the arrest of the municipal commissioner, and also delayed his funeral until 3 pm.

Swachh Bharat Mission in the state

The policy of naming and shaming people for open defecation was introduced by the Rajasthan government last year as part of the Swachh Bharat mission. But Khan’s nephew Qayoom said there are no toilets in the slum where he was killed. Government statistics released earlier this year showed that nearly 22% of households in Rajasthan still do not have access to toilets.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) issued a press release on Friday condemning the alleged killing, and said it showed how the Swacch Bharat mission had become an “excuse for lynch mob attacks and attacks on women’s dignity and rights.” Calling for the arrest of the municipal commissioner, the press release said Zafar Khan had submitted a memorandum to the Nagar Parishad protesting against the campaign of “public shaming and bullying of women” for defecating in the open.