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POLICE BRUTALITY: COLD POWER AND CLASS PLAY

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

- Nitisha Makharia





The whole world erupted in flames when an African-American George Floyd was deliberately murdered by a group of Minnesota police officers. The debate and misconduct of police brutality in the United States of America captured the attention of the whole world, including the subcontinent of India, who is very familiar with it.

“Indians” still mourned alongside George Flyod’s family, while the 23 year old Faizan’s news, along with four others beastly beaten by the Delhi Policemen went deaf ears. Faizan and his friends were beaten and bruised and forced to chant the national anthem, for no reason other than being born in a minority religion. Similarly, P. Jeyaraj and his son Bennix were arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police for allegedly violating the lockdown rules and keeping their store open past the allowed hours in the state. While George Flyod was an African American and Faizan was a Muslim minority, all of them were unarmed and killed at the hands of those, who swore to protect every one of us.

As disturbing as it seems police abuse and high-handedness in India has been on full display of late. A new study from rights body around the world against custodial torture shows a horrifying scenario in India – 1,731 people died in detention in 2019, mainly from poor groups, Dalits and Muslims. Of this, 1,606 people died in court detention, and 125 in police custody. The study also underlines some of the most disturbing yet widely used forms of torture. This portrays the actual picture of a common, horrific custom that is prevalent throughout the country; deaths that count only as numbers and justice that is forever denied because of power politics.

In most of the cases the brutality is seen against the poor minority and marginalized communities of the society. According to a Common Cause – CSDS survey, half of all Indian police officers believe that Muslims have an instinctual tendency to commit crimes. Such prejudice also applies to Scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes, Adivasis, Dalits, and Transgender people.[1]

Status of Policing in India Report- 2019 found out that according to 2 out of 5 police personnel survey in Bihar, and 1 out of 5, in six other states have never received any sort of Human Rights training. Most police personnel, without proper training, believe in violence against criminals, whether they are accused or convicted. Police officers were asked as part of a study if it was right for them to adopt a violent approach towards offenders for the better benefit of society and whether it was right to use violence to obtain confessions. For this, the affirmative response was 75 percent and 83 percent respectively. And that's not all, if the police agree that violence is acceptable in a culture that condones it, no penalty will ever come out of it.

It's a very rare headline for police being convicted of custodial deaths. The that number of deaths in custody but zero prosecutions is posing an urgent narrative demanding meticulous review of systemic deficiencies entrenched in a culture of privilege, corruption, inequality, eroding the justice system and compounding power play to human rights violations. If that's how it is, then we need to challenge our system's very basic principles that threaten the lives of the most marginalized – Muslims, Dalits, tribals and women. Several urgent measures need to be implemented. Every nation and state needs a police force that respects human rights and does not play with its citizens ' lives.

If the people around the police are not feeling safe, what is the point of getting them? So many of us in our time of need do feel hesitant to approach a policeman? How many of us felt that sudden moment of perplexity when we saw a nearby policeman?

Ironically, in the world's largest democracy, the police force, which is meant to be a law enforcement agency, has become a perpetrator of violence and has killed many people with the state as an accomplice. It is important to note that India has yet to ratify the 1987 U.N. Convention against torture.

The murderous assault on most of the victims occurs despite a strong legal framework that protects an accused's rights in custody. Examples include Articles 21 and 22 of the Indian Constitution, provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) on arrest and prosecution proceedings, provisions of the Evidence Act on the admissibility of evidence, and Supreme Court (SC) judgments such as DK Basu vs West Bengal and Anesh Kumar vs. Bihar.[2]

The province of prison justice, the conceptualization of freedom behind bars and the role of judicial power as constitutional sentinel in a prison setting, are of the gravest moment in a world of escalating torture by the minions of State, and in India, where this virgin area of jurisprudence is becoming painfully relevant. [3]

'Dalit Lives Matter' and other memes parallel to the US 'Black Lives Matter' are missing the guilty party in both democracies: police torture. It is hard to distinguish. In America, the dominant theme has turned rapidly to 'racism'. Unfortunately, merely pointing out a social problem like 'racism' or 'casteism' doesn't deal with the room suspect – the police officer whose abuse the state requires. Social and criminal issues need to be addressed – in distinctly different ways, in India, the US and everywhere.

Nitisha is a third year student at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.

(makharian@gmail.com)

[1] Matthew, 'Police Brutality In India: George Floyd And Faizan' (Jurist.org, 2020) <https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/07/naina-matthew-police-brutality-india/> accessed 20 July 2020. [2] 'Why Custodial Deaths Often Go Unpunished | Opinion' (Hindustan Times, 2020) <https://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/why-custodial-deaths-often-go-unpunished/story-f35QfTkbmuvmxdRn759vII.html> accessed 20 July 2020. [3] Sunil Batra Vs Delhi Administration and Ors, (1980) 2 SCR 557.

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