Chained and thrashed for picking up trash

In the eyes of the police, the three boys are no different from the rags they collect.

The Chhattisgarh Police picked up three ragpickers and treated them like trash by keeping them at a police station illegally, legs shackled, and, when the media came to know about their high-handedness, freed them quietly.

The boys, aged 10, 11 and 12, have committed no crime and were picked up because the police were under pressure to crack a spate of robbery cases at Pathalgaon in Jashpur district.

The boys were kept in shackles at the police station

The boys were kept in shackles at the police station

The boys were allegedly thrashed by the police as they repeatedly pleaded: 'We are innocent.

'Please allow us to go.' Pathalgaon station house officer and town inspector Narendra Sharma told his men to keep the boys chained inside the police station. He justified his action, saying that the behaviour of the boys was 'unacceptable'.

Pathalgaon police station in-charge Narendra Sharma

Pathalgaon police station in-charge Narendra Sharma

He did not elaborate. The detention has drawn sharp reaction from activists. 'The police action is atrocious. The officer-in-charge should be held guilty for subjecting the minors to cruel treatment,' Alok Shukla of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan said.

'They are poor children and devoid of parental care. With no social support and backing, they roam around as ragpickers to eke out a living.

Being a soft and easy target, they were picked up and ill-treated,' Anshuman Jha, who was formerly associated with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said.

As a damage control exercise, Jashpur superintendent of police (SP) Manish Sharma shunted the town inspector to the police lines and constituted a committee headed by deputy SP B.L. Kehire to probe the incident.

According to Sharma, the town inspector acted in violation of rules as no one should be kept handcuffed or in shackles at a police station without strong grounds.

'An accused or undertrial may be kept behind bars,' the district police chief said.

'He refused to comment on whether the minors were medically examined before being released.

'Only after the investigation is complete, I will be in a position to say something,' he said. Pathalgaon, a hub of business activities, houses several businessmen. Lately, there has been a spurt in robbery incidents and the police have so far not been able to check the crime.

As news of the detention of the three boys reached the media, the police quietly freed them. 'If these minors were kept in chains, then the reason for doing so should be mentioned in the station house dairy.

'If not, the police will be held responsible for behaving in a high-handed manner.

'There is no justification why minors should be treated in such a shameful and reprehensible manner,' a senior lawyer said. He did not want to be named.

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