Madhya Pradesh — A video of a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Sidhi, Madhya Pradesh urinating on a tribal man named Dasmat Rawat went viral on July 3 causing widespread outrage on social media. A few days later photo-ops showed Chief Minister Shivraj Singh washing Rawat's feet.
Meanwhile, the BJP leader Pravesh Shukla was arrested and the National Security Act (NSA) was invoked against him. As a consequence, his house was demolished.
The video that went viral was from 2020.
In the video, the 36-year-old man is seen being urinated upon by Pravesh Shukla.
Dasmat Rawat is a labourer who is popularly known in the village as ‘Palle’ because of his work. He offloads cement bags from trucks and puts them in local stores.
The False Claims
Days after the video went viral, multiple people on social media claimed that Dasmat Rawat was not the real victim. The claims, determined false by BOOM, said that government officials staged the incident because they couldn't find the actual victim.
Misinformation about the identity of the victim started spreading widely after a video clip of Dasmat's interview went viral on July 6. In the clip, Dasmat claimed that he was not the person seen in the video.
As the clip gained popularity, the Madhya Pradesh Congress tweeted from their official account, accusing the Chief Minister of staging a drama. They questioned if the real victim was missing. The tweet implied a larger conspiracy and stated that the people of Madhya Pradesh would not forgive the chief minister.
A Twitter user named Shyam Meera Singh, with 200,000 followers made a claim that "CM Shivraj Singh ordered a person to pose as a victim after a BJP leader's involvement was revealed in the urine scandal. The authorities apprehended an individual smoking a cigarette at a shop. The CM washed his feet and pictures were taken. However, the alleged victim has now come forward and stated that he is not the person involved at all. It appears that false witnesses were heard, and now fake victims are also being arranged."
Prashant Kanojia, a leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal party having 2.2 lakh followers, tweeted that the tribal person in Madhya Pradesh, whose feet were washed by the Chief Minister, is not the victim of the urination incident.
Turns out, the claims were false.
The Superintendent of Police (SP) in Sidhi confirmed it by saying that “certain news channels are spreading misleading information claiming that the person seen in the video is not Dasmat Rawat. However, the police investigation has confirmed that the individual in the video is indeed Dasmat Rawat. Therefore, the police directly refutes all such misleading news."
BOOM went to the village where Dasmat Rawat lives and met around 20 people - his family members, neighbours and government officials to confirm whether he was the same man seen in the video.
When BOOM asked Rawat why he had claimed not to be the real victim in front of the District Magistrate, he said, "This was the first time I had ever been taken to a police station. The police officers came to my house and took me there without informing me or my wife about anything. I was in a state of shock, which is why I made that statement."
Asha Rawat, Dasmat's wife said, "When I saw the video, I immediately recognised that it was my husband. I recognised his clothes. How could I not recognise him?”
“The respect and honor of the entire Adivasi community have been compromised, and no amount of money can compensate for that loss,” she said.
The sarpanch of Karundi Village Ganga Prasad Sahu too recognised him from the video. "Dasmat had the exact same messy hairstyle and clothes that can be seen in the video. The person shown in the video is Dasmat," he said.
Dasmat's Uncle, Hublal Rawat, said that during the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Dasmat used to visit Kubri market in the evenings. He used to hang out with Pravesh and his friends. “I recognize the shoes he is wearing in the viral video. I distinctly remember those shoes,” he added.
Chotelal Dwivedi, a former employer of Dasmat, received the viral video in a WhatsApp group. "He used to work in my shop. With just one look, I immediately recognised that the person in the video was Dasmat."
How the video went viral
The incident happened on June 20, 2020, two years before the video went viral.
“During the lockdown, Dasmat would come to Deendayal's shop every day and sit with Pravesh and his friends until late hours,” a shopkeeper present at the location where the incident took place told BOOM.
Deendayal is a childhood friend of Dasmat’s.
Even after the incident, he continued to visit the shop, the shopkeeper added. The shopkeeper also mentioned that he had seen Dasmat and Pravesh drinking alcohol together at the location on several occasions.
According to Ramesh Singh, a close friend of Pravesh Shukla, the incident occurred on June 20, 2020. It started when some utensils from a nearby shop, where Pravesh and Dasmat used to spend time together, were stolen. The shopkeeper suspected Dasmat of the theft and reported it to Pravesh. In response, Pravesh questioned Dasmat about the incident. However, when Dasmat remained silent, Pravesh became angry and proceeded to urinate on him.
While Pravesh was urinating, his childhood friend Deendayal Sahu recorded the incident.
Deendayal said he too has been assaulted by Pravesh multiple times. "Despite being my friend, Pravesh has assaulted me. He had borrowed some money from me, and when I asked him to return it, he threatened to physically harm me."
"I was angry at him, which is why I decided to record that video and store it on my computer,” he said.
Six months ago, Deendayal shared this incident with Adarsh Shukla, who is both Pravesh's cousin and a political rival. Adarsh believed that Pravesh's support for a Thakur candidate in the previous elections, despite being a Brahmin himself, had led to the defeat of Adarsh's chosen candidate for sarpanch.
Adarsh, angered by Pravesh's actions, encouraged Deendayal to share the video with him.
Adarsh Shukla clarified, "Out of curiosity, I asked Deendayal for the video. I shared it in a local group, but then I promptly deleted it. To my surprise, within a few minutes, the video went viral across the entire village. My intention was never to defame Pravesh. I never anticipated that this video would create such a widespread stir."
After Pravesh's house was bulldozed, the Akhil Bharitiya Brahman Samaj donated 51,000 rupees to Pravesh's parents. The National President of Brahmin Mahasabha, Kuldeep Bhardwaj, protested on Monday, July 10th, against the demolition of the house belonging to the accused.
On July 13, the Adivasi community too organised a protest march, demanding that action be taken against local BJP MLA Kedarnath Shukla, as Pravesh Shukla was believed to have close ties with him.