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Four policemen suspended for allegedly assaulting villagers in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government has suspended four policemen accused of assaulting villagers, including women, protesting against bootlegging and the illicit sale of liquor in Osmanabad district, a senior official said here Thursday.

Taking note of the incident, Home Minister R.R. Patil issued the suspension orders after a preliminary report submitted by the police department on the incident, which took place in Kangara village last Monday.

"The police officials suspended are assistant police inspector Rajendra Bansode and constables Ashok Pawar, Anna Bhosale and Haridas Shinde, all from the Bembli police station in Osmanabad," a home department official told IANS.

Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde, who visited the village Wednesday, around 260 km from here, assured that he would raise the issue of police atrocities in the monsoon session of the legislature.

"I demand judicial inquiry over this incident where villagers demanding ban on liquor were brutally beaten... It reminds us of the atrocities by 'razakars' during the times of the nizams," Tawde said.

Last Monday, some women of Kangara village caught S.L. Rathod illegally selling liquor to local men and youth. They seized his entire stock of hooch.

The women immediately informed Bembli police who later came to the village.

Instead of taking charge of the bootlegger and the liquor stock, the police allegedly misbehaved with the villagers, including women.

When the villagers protested and sought an end to bootlegging and the illicit sale of liquor, the police chased and assaulted them, many of the victims claimed later.

Police summoned additional force of around 200 policemen later that night after the angry villagers retaliated.

The villagers said without even making any preliminary enquiries, police started caning men, women and children. They dragged them out of their homes, kicked, punched and slapped them.

Many people fled in darkness and hid in fields outside the village while police continued their house-to-house search till dawn, villagers said.

Police nabbed 54 villagers the next day on various charges including rioting, but 47 of them were released by evening, they said.

The villagers have accused police of supporting the bootlegging mafia in the region. People are demanding a total prohibition on the sale of alcohol in the district.

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