A Dalit youth allegedly died in police custody after he was detained for not wearing a mask and helmet in a Covid-19 hotspot in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, The Hindu reported on Thursday. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy initiated an inquiry into the incident and announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the his family.

Prakasam Superintendent of Police Siddharth Kaushal said a case of custodial death was registered after the youth, identified as Yaricharla Kiran Kumar, succumbed to a head injury in a private hospital in Guntur on Tuesday, according to the Hindustan Times.

The Prakasam police, however, denied the allegations and claimed Kumar sustained injuries because he tried to jump out of a moving car while being taken into custody.

The police claimed the incident took place on July 18, when Kumar and his friend Shiny Abraham – moving on a motorcycle without masks – were stopped by constable Rami Reddy at Kothapet check-post in Chirala. Both of them were allegedly drunk. “When Reddy asked them why they were not wearing masks and were driving the vehicle in an intoxicated state, they picked up an argument and assaulted the cop,” Kaushal said.

The constable then informed Chirala Sub-Inspector Vijay Kumar, who took Kiran Kumar and his friend into custody. “While they were being shifted to the police station in the jeep, Kiran jumped out of the moving vehicle at Narayana School junction and fell on the road, sustaining head injuries,” Kaushal added. “Preliminary inquiry revealed that Kiran had died of head injuries after he jumped out of the moving police jeep. Yet, we have ordered for a comprehensive inquiry.”

However, Kiran Kumar’s father filed a complaint with the police against the sub-inspector stating that his son was beaten indiscriminately for not wearing a mask.

Guntur Range Inspector-General of Police J Prabhakar Rao has appointed Guntur District Additional Superintendent of Police Gangadhar as special investigation officer to hold a comprehensive inquiry into the case as directed by the chief minister, Kaushal said. Prakasam District Superintendent of Police Siddharth Kaushal handed over the case to Darsi deputy superintendent of police for an impartial investigation, he added.

A case was also registered against Kiran Kumar and Abrahim based on a complaint filed by the constable under sections of the Motor Vehicles Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Disaster Management Act. Abraham was subjected to testing with a breath analyser.

‘Don’t Dalits have rights to live under Jagan’s regime?’

Meanwhile, Telugu Desam Party General Secretary Nara Lokesh criticised the YSR Congress government and alleged the police beat up the Dalit youth, which eventually led to his death, according to The News Minute.

“Don’t Dalits have a right to live under [chief minister] Jagan’s regime?” Lokesh asked. “To gain the appreciation of the ruling party leaders, police had tortured Varaprasad and now a Dalit youth Kiran Kumar in Prakasam district died due to police assault. Is there law and order in this state? The police who ought to protect the citizens have turned into lackeys of the ruling party and are attacking the Dalits like goondas.”

Varaprasad, a Dalit man was allegedly tonsured and humiliated by a constable and a sub-inspector in in East Godavari district for confronting a local YSR Congress Party leader.