NEWS
08/06/2020 8:16 PM IST | Updated 08/06/2020 8:25 PM IST

Outrage Builds Over Dalit Activist’s Death In Maharashtra Home Minister’s Constituency

An NCP leader has been booked for abetment to suicide after Arvind Bansod’s death, but Prakash Ambedkar and others allege gaps in the police investigation.

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Dalit activist Arvind Bansod

NAGPUR, Maharashtra: Dalit groups, led by Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar, have alleged that the police are trying to cover up the suspicious death of a young Dalit activist in Narkhed tehsil of Nagpur district which falls in the constituency of Maharashtra home minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Anil Deshmukh.

Arvind Bansod, 32, a resident of Pimpaldhara village in Narkhed, was found unconscious in front of an HP Gas agency in Thadipawani town under the same tehsil on May 27. A member of Ambedkar’s party, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Bansod was rushed to Nagpur but he died during the treatment.

While the police have registered a case against an NCP leader for abetment to suicide, Ambedkar and other activists allege that there are gaps in the police’s investigation. 

Ambedkar said in a statement that Bansod was physically attacked by the Gas agency owner Mithilesh alias Mayur Umarkar who is an NCP leader.

“Bansod needed an HP Gas connection so he was trying to click a photo of the agency’s board. But the agency people snatched his mobile from him. When Bansod went inside the agency to bring back his mobile, the agency’s owner Mithilesh Umarkar hurled casteist slurs at him and even threatened to kill him. Umarkar and his goons also began beating Bansod,” Ambedkar alleged.

The statement adds that when Bansod’s companions went to check on him, he was lying unconscious on the steps of the agency with a bottle of pesticide beside him. 

“As people began to gather near the place, Umarkar took Bansod to a hospital in his car. He had also taken the pesticide with him. It is not known what transpired in the car,” Ambedkar added.

Bansod was reportedly taken to the nearest Public Health Hospital in Jalalkheda village from where he was referred to the IGMC hospital in Nagpur.

Bandopant Umarkar, Mithilesh’s father, told HuffPost India that his son has been booked under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with abetment to suicide.

But Ambedkar said that police registered a case of suicide because Mithilesh is an officer-bearer of NCP.

“The accused’s father Bandopant Umarkar is the vice president of NCP’s Nagpur unit and the accused himself is a Panchyat Samiti member from the NCP. The accused is also a close associate of state’s home minister Anil Deshmukh,” Ambedkar alleged.

HuffPost India has reached out to minister Anil Deshmukh and his son Salil Deshmukh and will update this story when they respond.

Ambedkar has also alleged that the police did not take into account the testimony of Bansod’s friend Gajanan Raut, who he claimed was an eyewitness to the incident.

When asked about the allegations of a cover-up in this case, the Superintendent of Police for Nagpur rural Rakesh Ola denied any such thing.

“An offense of abetment to suicide has been registered in this case (against Umarakar). The statement of the person, who was with the deceased at the time of his death, has been recorded in front of the magistrate. A proper investigation is going on in this case,” Ola told HuffPost India.

When asked if the person has said in his statement if it was a suicide or not, Ola said that he can not disclose it at this point.

“The cause of death was poisoning. One person (Mayur Umarkar) has taken anticipatory bail in this case from the court. Political pressure and all is just hearsay. Proper investigation is being conducted in this case and considering its seriousness the case will be handled by a senior officer,” Ola added.

“Arvind Bansod’s death was an unfortunate incident but there were no casteist abuses or physical assault as is being reported. A police inquiry is going on in the case but the case is being politicized because I am a politician,” Bandopant Umarakar told HuffPost India.

When asked if there was an attempt to cover up the case since he belongs to the ruling party in the state, Umarkar said, “If that had been the case, then even the case would not have been registered. I was not in the town when the incident took place. If he (his son) has committed a crime then he will deserve the punishment for it.”

Twitter was abuzz about Bansod’s death on Monday with many demanding a fair investigation into the case, using the hashtags #justice_for_arvind_bansod and #DalitLivesMatter .