Police in the Bulandshahr district of India's Uttar Pradesh state on Wednesday confirmed they would investigate a case of theft by the two men and a subsequent assault by the village chief, allegedly for stealing a sack of potatoes.
The purported slapping incident was said to have taken place on 10 January in the presence of residents of Baroda village on the orders of village elders, said Santosh Kumar Singh, a senior police officer of the district.
"We got the information about the incident on 10 January. Prem Jat, Meenu Kumar and Rakesh allegedly stole a sack of potatoes from the field belonging to a man called Rinku. Out of the three, two Meenu Kumar and Rakesh from the Dalit community was slapped at a meeting of the Panchayat, a village body of elders,” Singh added.
Both Meenu Kumar and Rakesh told the police that apart from being beaten, they were made to squat like hens while having their ears held by three persons, including the village chief. They were also asked to pay a fine of about INR 3000 ($42).
“We have ordered an investigation. Meenu and Rakesh have confirmed that they were beaten up badly and severely humiliated in public in spite of pleading not guilty and that the theft was committed by Prem Jat,” Santosh Singh said.
Dalits, often referred to as Untouchables, are members of the lowest caste in the Indian society and have faced oppression for years.