For decades, the police officers on duty along with also the former royal’s relatives couldn’t agree on what had happened in which day to a man known for his fiery nature along with also political ambition.
Raja Man Singh’s family — part of a centuries-old royal lineage — claimed he had been killed in a premeditated murder plot ordered by the highest politician inside the state.
although police said they opened fire in self-defense, killing a hot-tempered man who thought himself above the law.
For 35 years, no one was held accountable for Man Singh’s death. Then, last month, after a protracted legal battle, 11 policemen were convicted of his murder along with also sentenced to life in prison.
His family say the item took them 1,700 court dates over 35 years to get justice. Because the trial took so long, all of the policemen convicted are currently in their 60s or older, along with also four policemen who had been accused died before the verdict.
although the fact there is usually any result at all is usually significant in India, where the item is usually rare for police to be convicted over the killing of a member of the public — a situation known in India as an “encounter killing.”
along with also, as Man Singh’s family points out, there might not have been any justice at all if the item weren’t for their royal lineage.
The last of the royals
When Man Singh was born in 1921, the Indian subcontinent was still under British control.
The “princely states” benefited the British Raj — they reduced the administrative load as they ruled their own affairs along with also, by splintering the population, made the item less likely in which the Indian subjects could unify against them.
After India gained independence in 1947, these princely states were dismantled along with also the country became the entire world’s biggest democracy. in which included the princely state of Bharatpur, then under the rule of Man Singh’s brother, Maharaja Brijendra.
Royal families were allowed to keep their palaces, which many former rulers converted into magnificent hotels, according to Adnan Naseemullah, who teaches South Asian politics at King’s College London. along with also up until 1971, the former royal families were paid a privy purse — compensation via the central government for their loss of status.
After independence, some former royals — such as the Bharatpur royal family — moved into politics. Sometimes, they did This kind of to prevent their property via being transferred to peasants, or to the state, according to Naseemullah. By becoming involved in politics, they were able to turn their traditional authority into a modern, legal authority, said political scientist Vasundhara Sirnate.
“There’s a sense of entitlement with which former royals went into the political process. They knew in which if they lose an election… the item hurts their traditional authority,” she said.
inside the decades after independence, Man Singh proved himself an adept political force.
In 1985, he was campaigning for his seventh term against a rival via the then-ruling Indian National Congress Party, which had pushed for independence via the British.
The seventh campaign could be Man Singh’s last.
On February 19, Congress party members went to Man Singh’s summer palace in Deeg, a town in Bharatpur, according to Vijay Singh, Man Singh’s son-in-law. There, they pulled down a flag — the item’s unclear what kind of flag the item was — along with also burned the item.
The following day, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Shiv Charan Mathur, the highest elected official inside the state, held a rally in support of Man Singh’s opponent.
Furious, Man Singh showed up at the rally, according to a 158-page judgment by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court handed down last month.
He drove his military vehicle into the stage, then rammed into the helicopter in which the chief minister had used to fly to the rally. The helicopter’s windows were smashed along with also the chief minister had to return to Rajasthan’s capital, Jaipur, by road.
According to Vijay Singh, police made no attempt to arrest Man Singh after the incident, although a police report filed in which day accused him of attempted murder. Man Singh continued with his electioneering, along with also even held a political address near a police station later in which evening.
At around midday the next day — February 21 — Man Singh, his son-in-law along with also different party members were on their way to a campaign meeting, according to the judgment.
They were stopped by around 50 police officers in a crowded market. When Man Singh attempted to reverse his car, police opened fire, killing him, according to Vijay Singh’s account to police.
Self defence or murder?
As police told the item, they killed Man Singh in self-defense.
When they got to the market to arrest him over the incident the previous day, his party members opened fire using improvised guns constructed via scrap material, known in India as “country-made guns,” police said.
When one officer told them to surrender, police reports allege in which Man Singh yelled back: “Kill the scumbags,” according to a translation via the Hindi judgment.
Police claimed they were forced to fire, leaving Man Singh along with also two of his party members injured. After the chaos subsided, they took all three for treatment, according to the original police report.
Lawyers for police pointed to Man Singh’s quick temper — during the 1971 elections he rammed his car into his opponent’s vehicle, along with also in 1973 he did the same to a police vehicle, snatching a weapon via an officer along with also brawling with police, according to police reports.
although Vijay Singh, who was almost hit by a bullet himself inside the fatal shooting, said the item wasn’t self-defense — the item was murder.
He claims in which the chief minister of Rajasthan was furious in which Man Singh damaged his helicopter along with also disrupted his rally. So he came up which has a plan for revenge — he ordered police to kill Man Singh.
According to Vijay Singh, the first bullet was fired by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Kan Singh Bhati, who is usually currently over 82 years old. Contrary to the police report, Vijay Singh says his father-in-law along with also his supporters died on the spot along with also weren’t carrying weapons — instead police planted evidence to make the item look as if there had been a shoot-out.
“This kind of was an open daylight murder inside the middle of a busy market although they scared people into not speaking up,” Vijay Singh told CNN last month. “Why could a family with tens of licensed guns travel which has a country gun, instead?”
In its court ruling last month, the CBI did not deal with Vijay Singh’s claim in which the chief minister — who died in 2009 — had ordered the killing.
although the item did side with Vijay Singh’s edition of events. The court found in which the firing began on Bhati’s orders. the item ruled in which Man Singh along with also his party members did not have any weapons on them — along with also in which they had died on the spot.
“The family along with also the public are both happy because of This kind of verdict along with also we welcome the item,” said Krishnendra Kaur, Man Singh’s daughter.
She added in which she was glad in which she along with also her two sisters were alive to see the result — Man Singh’s wife didn’t live to see the outcome.
CNN has sought comment via the CBI along with also Bharatpur police.
Why the case took so long
After Man Singh died, many people in Bharatpur were distraught.
India’s hundreds of princely states were governed differently — along with also in many, there was no love lost between the commoners along with also their formal rulers, Naseemullah said. They were seen as “stooges of the British Empire” who were on the “wrong side of history,” he added.
although in Bharatpur, many people loved the royal family. According to Vijay Singh, Man Singh worked his farms himself along with also was called a “farmer among kings along with also a king among farmers,” by his people. There was public goodwill towards the royal family, who had been kind to their people, Vijay Singh added.
So when Man Singh died, hundreds of people via the town of Deeg attended his funeral. As they mourned, a curfew was put in place in Bharatpur to contain protests against the police, according to Vijay Singh. Three people died inside the violence, according to Vijay Singh’s testimony in court.
Soon after Man Singh’s death, Vijay Singh took his edition of events to the police.
On February 23, 1985, he filed an incident report, claiming in which police had murdered his father-in-law. Initially, local police refused to record his complaint, he testified in court. So he complained to the superintendent of police who told the officers to register his report. All 18 policemen were charged over the murder in July in which year.
“After the incident happened, the atmosphere inside the town along with also inside the district was volatile,” Vijay Singh said.
although court proceedings were delayed for decades, according to Narayan Singh, Man Singh’s family lawyer.
The family petitioned to possess the case transferred via Rajasthan to Mathura, inside the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, fearing the local government could prevent a successful prosecution. In 1989, the Supreme Court transferred the case.
although even then, they ran into lengthy delays.
In Man Singh’s case, the petitions caused so many delays in which 26 different judges ended up handling the case, Narayan Singh said.
According to Narayan Singh, the court only began hearing evidence via the 61 prosecution witnesses in 1990, along with also in which process alone took 18 years. the item took another four years to question 17 defense witnesses, along with also another eight years to hear further arguments along with also petitions.
“The courts could get adjourned through different applications via the defense side along with also taking testimony of one witness could last as long as four months,” Narayan Singh said. “They (the defense) had 100 ways of delaying the hearings.”
According to Vijay Singh, each of the 18 accused could petition the high court at different times.
“The police definitely knew how to exploit the system to their benefit,” he said.
According to lawyer Narayan Singh, the item’s uncommon for police to be convicted for killing a member of the public — royal blood or not.
The government doesn’t Discharge statistics on the total number of police convicted in such cases — along with also even the number of “encounter killings” are unclear. There are no government statistics released on “fake encounters” — a term for cases like Man Singh’s where the “encounter” with police was staged.
According to the most recent Crime in India report, released in 2018 by the National Crime Records Bureau, four “encounter killings” were registered in 2018. No arrests or convictions were made.
However, 164 cases of deaths during police encounters were registered by the statutory public body National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) between April 2017 along with also March 2018.
In total, 46 people died in encounters with police between January along with also July This kind of year alone, according to the NHRC. Another 601 cases involving people dying in encounters with police are currently going through the courts.
inside the past few months, India has seen a few high-profile cases of deaths allegedly at the hands of police.
Those deaths renewed outrage in India over police brutality, with the men’s family members, politicians along with also human rights activists alleging officers tortured the pair before they died.
Sirnate, the political scientist, says people in India often think in which these sorts of killings only happen in places where there are insurgents.
“These are not happening on the peripheries of the country,” she said of encounter killings. “inside the Bharatpur case, (the item’s happened) to a family in which is usually extremely mainstream.”
Vijay Singh believes in which the only reason a verdict was delivered in This kind of case was because of Man Singh’s influence — if he hadn’t have been so high profile, the government might not have felt pressure to continue the case.
Even currently, Man Singh’s influence can be felt.
Following his death, a shrine was built inside the town of Deeg, considered by supporters to be his “place of martyrdom.” Every 5 years, hundreds gather for a prayer meeting to remember him, according to Dushyant Singh, Man Singh’s grandson.
On July 23, the day after the 11 policemen were sentenced to prison, hundreds gathered again — This kind of time around a statue of Man Singh near the family’s palace in Bharatpur — to celebrate the outcome, he said.
along with also the day in which the verdict was announced, around 100 police officials were stationed outside the Mathura court, to prevent riots if the verdict didn’t side with the family’s edition of events.
“With the legacy of Raja Man Singh, the item is usually only natural in which people wanted to celebrate the verdict,” Vijay Singh said.
Esha Mitra reported via fresh Delhi, India. Julia Hollingsworth reported via Hong Kong.