Police Torture – A Dirty Form of State Terror
In the same week that the world marked International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26), the death of a father and son due to alleged custodial torture in Sathankulam town near Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu has sparked rage across the country.
Source – The Hindu:-
“Study by NCAT Shows, Out of the 125 deaths in police custody, Uttar Pradesh topped with 14 deaths, followed by Tamil Nadu and Punjab with 11 deaths each and Bihar with 10 deaths,the other States in that order are Madhya Pradesh with nine deaths; Gujarat with eight; Delhi and Odisha with seven each; Jharkhand with six; Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan with five each; Andhra Pradesh and Haryana with four each; Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal with three each; Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Manipur with two each; and Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana and Tripura with one each as per NCAT.
“Torture methods used in 2019 included hammering iron nails in the body (Gufran Alam and Taslim Ansari of Bihar), applying roller on legs and burning (Rizwan Asad Pandit of Jammu and Kashmir), ‘falanga’ wherein the soles of the feet are beaten (Rajkumar of Kerala), stretching legs apart in opposite side (Rajkumar of Kerala), and hitting in private parts (Brijpal Maurya and Lina Narjinari of Haryana),” said NCAT director Paritosh Chakma.
The other methods of torture included electric shock, pouring petrol or applying chilli powder on private parts, beating while handcuffed, pricking body with needles, branding with a hot iron rod, beating after stripping, urinating in mouth, inserting a hard blunt object into anus, beating after hanging upside down with hands and legs tied, forcing to perform oral sex, pressing finger nails with pliers, beating with iron rods after victim is suspended between two tables with hands and legs tied, and kicking the abdomen of a pregnant woman.
The NCAT’s analysis also revealed 75 (60%) of these 125 belonged to the poor and marginalised communities. They included 13 from Dalit and tribal communities and 15 were Muslims, while 35 were picked up for petty crimes. Three of them were farmers, two security guards, two drivers, a labourer, a rag-picker and a refugee. Women continued to be tortured or targeted for sexual violence in custody and the victims often belonged to the weaker sections. During 2019, the death of at least four women in police custody was reported, the NCAT said.
As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to emphasise the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Custodial deaths are often the result of the pervasive use of torture in India’s police stations for extracting admissions of crime, but it is not uncommon, regrettably, for the police to use their power and authority to settle personal scores.
It might indicate a different pathology among police officials that makes them inflict violence and harm against the weak. Since the early days of the current lockdown, there have been innumerable reports, often backed by video footage, of the police and officials attacking citizens in the name of enforcing restrictions, and awarding personalised punishment on violators, and sometimes kicking and overturning carts containing items for sale etc.
Major misuse of power and cause of injustice to the people have weakened the public confidence in police. For many Indians, the police is an arm of the State that is seen more as a feared adversary than an ally to help victims of a crime. While some may claim the ‘few bad apples’ theory to absolve the Indian police, incidents like that of Jayaraj and Fenix only further highlight the inherent systemic problems in the country’s police force and criminal justice system.There has been little agreement on what the police should do and not do, and this is the reason why there is a huge commotion in the structural foundation of the entire police system in India.
India does not have any law specifically catering towards the prevention of custodial torture, nor does it have any robust procedural safeguards against possible custodial violence.Police reforms are pointless unless these are directed at the police stations and further complemented by the judicial reforms.
June 26 is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, as appropriate a day as any to imagine these horrors that are inflicted upon the men and women of our country every day at the hands of law enforcement agencies. To break the silence surrounding torture and to reform India’s criminal justice system at large, there can be no further delay in taking such legislative measures.