It was minutes into India's Independence Day when police stormed a slum in the western state of Gujarat where Hira Bajania, 65, was sleeping. In the black of night, he was dragged from his home, taken to a nearby police station and accused, with 11 other men, of stealing cell phones.
As dawn broke on a day commemorating India's freedom, one by one the men were taken from their cell to be interrogated for up to 30 minutes, according to a complaint subsequently filed to police, and seen by CNN. They were bound, stripped, beaten, abused and, according to two people in the group, tortured sexually and told to confess. Many returned to their cell limping, unable to stand or sit, say several of the men. All denied the charges.
At around 5.30 p.m. the next day, Hira Bajania, a ragpicker, collapsed after being beaten. "We told them, 'He is dead. You've killed him.' The police thought he was pretending," says Shankar Bajania, no relation, who is one of the men picked up on August 15, 2019.