Madhya Pradesh Director General of Police VK Singh has directed cops across the state to not misbehave or assault people belonging to the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities taken in police custody.
"No indecent behaviour or beating should take place with any person hailing from the SC or ST category in police custody," the directive issued to Additional Director Generals, Deputy Inspector Generals and Police Superintendents across the state on Monday read.
The circular also said that members of these communities should be taken into custody only when required under existing legal provisions.
The circular was issued after the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) objected to certain incidents of indecent conduct and physical torture with people belonging to marginalised communities in police custody. The panel had only recently taken up an August 2019 incident where five tribal men were allegedly beaten and forced to drink urine while in custody at the Nanpur police station in Alirajpur district.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bala Bachchan, who belongs to the tribal community, confirmed that the directives were issued in keeping with guidelines prescribed by the NCST.
The directive was criticised by the BJP, which maintained that it should apply to all people irrespective of caste or community. "This is an attempt to divide society. Instead of such a directive, the DGP should have issued an order that the rule of law should be followed for all," news agency PTI quoted state BJP spokesperson Rajnish Agrawal as saying.
Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta dismissed their objections, claiming that "BJP leaders do not read before reacting".