In a case of custodial death in Telangana, Seelam Rangaiah, a 53-year-old Dalit man, arrested for allegedly hunting wild animals, was found hanging in the toilet of a police station in Peddapalli district on Tuesday. Police said the accused belonged to a gang which hunted animals by setting up electric fences and had two cases pending on him for similar offences. The Manthani legislator, D Sridhar Babu has demanded a judicial enquiry into the death.
According to the Ramagundam Police Commissioner V Satyanarayana, around 4 am on Tuesday, Seelam went to the toilet and did not come out for a long time. Then, the policemen in the station with the help of the other accused, broke open the doors of the rest room and found that the 53-year-old had allegedly used his Kanduva (an upper garment used around the neck) to kill himself in the toilet, the police officer said. Policemen took the accused to a hospital where he was declared dead.
Seelam was a native of Ramaiahpalli village in Ramagiri mandal and was previously accused in two cases involving the killing of wild animals. The New Indian Express reported that a week earlier, one of the alleged poachers died after accidentally coming in contact with a live electric wire trap meant for wild animals.
Satyanarayana told the paper that Seelam was arrested earlier this week for catching a wild boar using electric wires. He was previously warned against indulging in animal poaching. The officer claimed that as per primary postmortem report, Seelam did not sustain any physical torture at the police station and an investigation has been ordered into the circumstances leading to his death.
Meanwhile, the Manthani legislator D Sridhar Babu alleged that Seelam was threatened with one-year imprisonment under the Preventive Detention (PD) Act which pushed him to take the extreme step. Under the PD Act, the accused will be detained for a maximum period of up to one year while they face trial.
Speaking to media at a press conference, the Congress legislator stated that custodial death of the Dalit man was due to police torture for three days at the Manthani police station. He demanded a judicial enquiry into the death and also accused the police of attempting to strike a compromise with Seelamâ€™s family by sending police officials not connected to the Manthani division to negotiate.
The former minister demanded that the government pay compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the victim's family and claimed that 15 such custodial deaths have taken place since the formation of Telangana in 2014.
(With PTI inputs)