//Bengal police accused of torture

Bengal police accused of torture

Human rights groups in the east Indian state of West Bengal say state police have been carrying out serious abuses of suspected Maoist rebels.

One suspected rebel said he was badly beaten in jail and that other prisoners were kept naked for prolonged periods.

But the West Bengal police and the state’s official human rights commission say torture is a thing of the past in the state.

Maoist rebel groups are active in a number of states in India.

‘Non-stop punching’

The allegations against the police are based on the accounts of the suspected Maoists recently released from jail.

One of them, Prasun Chatterjee, told the BBC that a senior police officer punched him in the face because he had looked the officer in the eye while asking him a question.

"I fell flat on the floor. The punches didn’t stop… the officer later said, ‘you should have looked at my shoes when you ask something, not at my eyes.’"

He said he had met other prisoners who had been languishing in the jail for years.

"Prisoners with Maoist links are being kept in nude for weeks – even in front of lady officers," he said.

The accusations were roundly rejected by West Bengal’s Inspector General of Police, Raj Kanojia.

"Torturing in police custody is a thing of past. Under the scanner of human rights commissions and similar organisations, we have changed a lot," he said.

"Even then, if [abuse] is being reported, we do take action."

His comments were supported by the head of the official West Bengal Human Rights Commission, Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen.

BBC, Saturday, 7 January 2006, 16:11 GMT