In this past month, there has been a meteoric increase in reported cases of police brutality in India. While tormenting criminals for confessions of their crimes is not an uncommon practice, the Indian public is increasingly concerned about unlawful arrests and physical beatings of innocent civilians.
Latest is the caning of six people in Indore, Madhya Pradesh who were part of a peaceful anti-encroachment drive. Among the six was a woman who also sustained severe injuries. As usual, the Chief Superintendent of Police KK Sharma dilutes the severity of the problem by stating the police resorted to mild force to disperse the crowd and denied the injuries being sustained due to police brutality. In his words, “People might have fallen down in the melee and got injured.”
This same week the Madras High Court has received a petition for action against seven police personnel who subjected a woman to third degree torture after her recent arrest in a murder case. According to the petition filed by her daughter, her mother was subjected inhuman assault; needles were injected into her fingers, nails, hand and arms. The police officials hung her upside down and beat her mercilessly. Further, they threatened to take obscene photographs of her and publish them in newspapers, unless she confessed to committing the murder. After filing the petition, the daughter also received threats from the police and was later offered to “settle the matter” by payment of a huge sum of money.
In three recent occurrences across the country, the citizens were so overwhelmed by the brutality of police, they chose to end their lives rather than face any more of the excruciating anguish. A few hours after being picked up for questioning, a 28-year-old mechanic in Chennai, Tamil Nadu hung himself to death. Another was a cab driver from Bengaluru, Karnataka who committed suicide after being tortured while in police custody. The third was a 17-year-old teenage boy in Amritsar, Punjab who took his own life after he was escorted to the police station in connection with a theft complaint and tortured alongside his friend. The suicides have riled up the relatives of three victims about the police’s callous attitude.
Unjust occurrences such as these have led to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) agreeing to grant political asylum in U.S. for Kamalpal Singh of Jullandar, Punjab. He has been arrested and brutalized by the Punjab police during interrogations to determine the whereabouts of his former domestic servant, who happened to be a suspected Kashmiri terrorist. Singh was beaten five to six times during the two-day detention, and was released only after his family and friends paid about $1000 to the interrogators.
A few weeks later, he underwent another string of violent interrogations; this time his family had to cough up about $1750. Fearing for his life, Singh has fled to the U.S. Meanwhile his wife had been arrested and beaten in his absence. Based on credibility of his testimony, Singh recently received political asylum in the U.S. and can seek legal immigration status for his wife and children.
Police brutality is not a new phenomenon in India. An answer to the age-old quandary “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” – who will guard the guardians – are being held accountable by the vigilant public which is using the power of social media to expose their ruthless behavior.
By Nilofar Neemuchwala
Times of India