by police mounting
-- By Kuldip Nayar
At a standing Committee meeting on Home Affairs, I asked the Delhi police
Chief whether third degree methods, practiced since the British days,
had been substituted by some humane ways. His reply in writing was: "over
the years, this trend is on the decline. It has been made clear to the
members of the force that third degree methods should not be used. Action
is taken as and when any complaint is received".
The same reply, I am sure, must have been given some years earlier and
if a member were to be asked the same question some years later, he would
get the same reply. The bureaucracy of any type has a set away of expression.
It does not change with the passage of time. Delhi police officialdom
is no different. The Chennai, Hyderabad or Calcutta police will give a
similar reply if asked about third degree methods. That the police have
remained stuck in the same mould and that they have not renounced the
dictum, spare the rod, spoil the child, is not surprising. None in the
force, at even the National police Academy at Hyderabad, has ever seriously
tried to find out the reason for it.
Once at a discussion at the Academy, I raised the question: why, during
the Emergency, the police had readily become an instrument of tyranny
in the hands of the government? There was an ominous silence. What hurt
me was that even the top echelons present at the discussion did not exchange
a word at the lunch interval on the question. I was told subsequently
that they did not like my accusation.
I concede that political masters make the police work in the most undesirable
ways. They have to harass their opponents and they need the police. But
why should the force carry out highhanded and arbitrary actions with impunity?
Why have even the highest in the force never refused to carry out legal
orders? If they are content to be mere tools and willing to lend themselves
to questionable objectives, there will never be a dearth of unscrupulous
An ordinary person's introduction to a police station begins with the
beating. And as the police proceed further they take the suspect or the
accused to a torture cell, an integral part of every urban police station.
The Red Fort at Delhi is a wing where third degree methods are used. In
Srinagar, there are torture cells, called Papa 1, Papa 2, and so on.
For the sake of propaganda, the police have opened human rights cells.
It is comical that the cells have been put under the Vigilance Unit -
probably the lowest rung in the hierarchy. Why should the Director General
of Police himself not head the human rights cell? Human Rights violations
are a far bigger crime because they maim people not only physically but
Third degree methods are really an extension of police atrocities. The
poor, the minorities, the Dalits and the tribal people are the main target.
No amount of protests by the voluntary organisations has made any significant
difference. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has not been effective
either. It has not even sensitised the force, which it was supposed to
do. The media has played a role in exposing the excesses by the police
but has failed to improve the force. Its basic instincts remain the same:
mow down even a semblance of challenge to the authority.
A recent instance is that of the beating of reporters by the BSF when
they were covering the fallout from blasts in Srinagar itself. Why should
the government think that an apology after inhuman behaviour is adequate?
Why should some heads not roll straightaway? The BSF in Kashmir, understandably,
is under pressure. But this is the argument I have been hearing from day
one of the insurgency. There is a belief that punishment would demoralize
the force. The effect would be the other way round. If the government
were to give exemplary punishments to those who indulged in excess, policemen
would learn a lesson. The public too would begin to have faith in the
law and order machinery.
Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh are the worst examples of police
highhandedness. People, poor and backward, are hapless victims. Social
tensions in these States have come to prevail because the upper castes
use violence against the Dalit workers. The process of social democratisation,
which is taking place in the districts, is being retarded. The vested
interests are so powerful and rich for example, the landlords - that the
police are on their side. It is profitable for the police to do so.
Take a recent case in Uttar Pradesh. A sub-inspector of the Attarra police
station in Banda district committed atrocities upon the some of the Dalits
at village AAU at the behest of the biggest landlord of that village.
He had been defeated in a straight contest for Pradhan by a Dalit woman's
husband. The landlord was desperate to settle scores. He had the woman
and her son beaten. The NHRC inquiry officer's report confirmed that police
dragged out both from the house. The son was beaten and the Dalit woman
abused in foul language. The Commission said in its judgement it agreed
with the inquiry officer and that "the law enforcement authorities
cannot take law into their hands and commit atrocities on innocent citizens
and get away by mere transfer". To inculcate discipline, the necessary
disciplinary action in accordance with law and is to institute an investigation
by the State CID. In response, the police retaliated by registering a
false case against a local activist who had pleaded on behalf of the Dalit
woman and her son. The Commission passed yet another order that the case
against the local activist be transferred to the State CID for investigation.
Even then the police did not give up. They sidelined the case of police
atrocities against the Dalit woman and her son. The activist has blamed
the District Superintendent of police." If he (SP) embarks on a campaign
to target upright citizens and good institutions for raising their voice
against police atrocity, then he has in effect set himself up as a dictator,
and we might as well say goodbye to democracy and the rule of law".
The story of police atrocities against the Adivasis at Mehndikheda village
in Bagli Tehsil (Dewas), Madhya Pradesh, is worse. Four Adivasis were
killed in police firing. A team of the People's Union for Democratic Rights,
which went to the village to inquire about the incident, has put the blame
on top Government officials. The report says the decision to "crack
down" that led to the death of four Adivasis in the Mehndikheda firing
as well as beating, looting and demolition of houses in the village of
the area was taken at the highest political level. The minutes of the
meeting convened by the Chief Secretary clearly state the order to take
strict action in the districts of Khandwa, Khargone and Dewas. "After
singling out the villages associated with the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan",
the report says that action should be taken "to its logical end".
The logical end is presumably firing, demolition and looting. In protest
against the destruction and looting of the Adivasi houses, the report
says, the Adivasi Morcha Sanghthan organised a Dharna and blocked the
road near Jamasindh village. "The administration turned a blind eye
and rejected any opportunity for talks while continuing raids on the villages
on flimsy grounds. Subsequently, a large police party raided Mehndikheda.
On hearing of the raid, villagers from the Dharna site rushed there. Stone
pelting started from both sides, using catapults. The District Forest
Officer claimed that the Collector gave the order for 'effective firing',
says the report.
What Amnesty International has said in its latest report beats what even
human rights activists in India have said: "Authorities in India
are failing to prevent violence against women and sometimes taken an active
part in it. These women often suffer a double discrimination on the basis
of caste as well as gender". It is a serious allegation and it cannot
be just brushed away