Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Human Rights and Police Atrocities

At times, unless you're dragged into a debate, you don't really come to know which side you're on. Today in college, during our human rights lecture, Mr. Satish Sahani spoke to us about the other side of police atrocities. The newspapers nowadays are full of brutalities committed by the police in Kashmir. Speaking about crowd control in general, Sahani said that the media always painted the police in a bad light. Legally, the police have a right to give a warning to the crowd to disperse. If this is not followed, then the police are supposed to use every means possible to disperse the crowd and avoid riots or any other dangerous situation. 

I asked him if it's admissible for police to fire at stone-pelters. He disagreed completely and also informed us that sometimes rubber/plastic pellets can cause worse damage than a real bullet (depending on where it is fired of course). He seemed to be of the general view that police are always shown in a bad light when they have to control crowds. His  main point was, custodial violence is not permissible. To elaborate, torture/murder or any other form of harassment of criminals once they are in police custody is a clear violation of human rights. By the same extension, "planned" or staged encounters also violate the human rights of the victims. According to Sahani, an encounter is an admission of failure by the police to gather evidence against the accused. 

He also spoke about how police should not be deployed to handle Maoists. Policemen believe that their uniform and command is enough to make people listen to them. However, Maoists and other terrorists have openly declared that they will not follow the law. Specially trained forces are required to tackle terrorists and Maoists. 

Another interesting aspect that was discussed during class was, why are policemen perpetually rude to us? According to Sahani, no government officer in our country believes that it is his duty to serve the public. The primary reason for this is, they are not accountable to the public. The best solution according to him was, to hold the electorate responsible for the ill-behavior of all government employees. The citizens should let the government and opposition know that this is an issue which needs to be tackled immediately or else they'll face the music during elections. An interesting course of action, no doubt, but I wonder, will it really work? Perhaps a law is required which will make all government officials more accountable to the public.

At the end of this lecture, I realized that I care. I care deeply about apathy of the police when any citizen tries to file an FIR. Or when police blame a rape victim saying "she asked for it". Sahani said that as citizens, we should stop fearing the police. As citizens, we can't just wait for government officials to change. We need to become the change.


  1. I think using firearms to disperse a crowd is also an admission that things aren't really under your control.

    Police force is supposed to be a custodian of law and has a responsibility to ensure safety of the state subjects, and hence the reason I suppose why each death because of police firing is being publicized so much.

  2. Well written... I agree with you... we have to be the change...

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