June 29, 2020

George Floyds of India

Black Lives Matter Protest in DC, 6/2/2020 @koshuuu | Unsplash.com
Trigger Warning: Mentions of Rape and Abuse.
Pardon me for exploiting the name of George Floyd, he deserved better. While the Indian society‘s grandiose action of support & to sought solace for a US citizen’s unlawful murder is commendable, brushing aside countless cases of police brutality against their own landsman is delinquent. Every Indian citizen or perhaps citizens of the world who are apprehended deserve a chance to prove their innocence through an inclusive judiciary system. There are no puny or colossal crimes; a Crime is a Crime pending due process, followed by punishment or vindication. Emotivism can pose an obstacle, it could be pertinent and dangerous. It is incompatible with a democratic society but allures every radical liberal and conservative alike. When we let our emotions take charge of a sensitive subject, society crumbles. Societal upheaval can be a boon or a bane. Non-Partisan societies must treat all human lives as equals. Constant recalibration to put out the fires caused by discrimination, hate crimes against minorities & poor, patriarchy, poverty, and several new-age problems that arose or shall arise is a necessity. History is filled with chapters of desertions of our collective morality, failure to act kind & human rights violations. Are we doomed to become a supplement for future historians on how we messed up, again?

Below are instances from my recollection where Indian Police disavowed our democratic rights and got away without any consequences

Vikas Dubey- The Gangster

Up: Kanpur Police and district administration demolished the house and damaged vehicles of gangster Vikas Dubey parked in the house. from r/WatchIndiaDieInside
Updated: 11:43 | July 10, 2020
Vikas Dubey, a most wanted criminal in Uttar Pradesh who brutally murdered 8 police men was killed in an encounter on July 10, 2020. Dubey deserved severe punishment for his terrorist activities. But our Indian police and her crooked politicians had other ideas. Day after the barbaric face-off, the police ordered a 'demolition' of Vikas Dubey's house and his other immovable properties as an act of petty revenge. A move that was celebrated and criticized by several Indians. Rajdeep Sardesai, an Indian journalist tweeted on July 9, a day before the encounter that 'A retired IPS officer tells me: ‘It’s unlikely Vikas Dubey will be caught; he and associates will be mostly ‘encountered’, they know too many secrets about too many ‘big’ people’” well, it’s day 6 since the gangster escaped after killing 8 policemen. Watch this space!' Link 
Vikas Dubey's son and wife was arrested by Kanpur Police on July 9. I regrettably add this photo to remind ourselves that a minor was detained on his knees for his supposed ties with his biological gangster father. It reminds me of the notorious LTTE outfit leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's adolescent son, who was shot dead for his father's crime. Revenge converts little right into a great wrong.

It is reported that the car in which Vikas Dubey and police men were travelling caught in an accident. Dubey, a 55 year old man escaped the cataclysmic accident, while police men suffered injuries. In a familiar course of event, the antagonist was killed in the end. Vikas Dubey is silenced. His version of truth and confessions are lost forever. 

[My intent is not to sympathize with a gangster or belittle the emotions of fallen policemen's family. My anger is gravitated towards Indian Police's Lazy and Incompetent way of dealing with critical cases. Easy way out of 'cases' are not why we are paying the Administration. Its our hard earned tax payer's money and we deserve the truth.]

Dissent- A Death Sentence

Police Brutality during Anti CAA protest- Forcing the protestors to sing their National Anthem while needlessly thrashing them. One of the victim 'Faizan' died shortly after. from r/WatchIndiaDieInside

Ever since, Modi Sarkar introduced the CAB- Citizen Amendment Bill (Now, CAA) that notoriously grants citizenship to people from neighboring sub-continent based on religious identity; Minority rights groups, and the Muslim population hit the streets to voice their dissent. Anti-CAA protests exposed the uglier side of Indian Politics and the Indian Police force. From destroying the CCTV evidence to barging into the Jamia Milia Ismalia student library, police brutality had no bounds. Screeching ‘Go back to Pakistan’ became a new police slogan. On Feb 24, shortly after Kapil Mishra’s (BJP leader) infamous speech, Indian police decided to ‘school’ the protesters by trashing & forcing them to sing India’s National Anthem. Faizan, a daily wager near Maujpur Chowk was one of the unlucky men who were abused and belittled. Faizan later died.

I urge you to abandon your politics and its various spectrums for a second and think about Faizan as a mortal human soul. For argument’s sake, let us assume that Faizan was actually protesting (which he wasn’t) and damaged public properties. Did he deserve such treatment? Death Sentence for dissent? Use evidence to penalize him and send him away for life- if you can. But murdering someone in cold blood by using powers bestowed by the state is despicable. When we, the people lose their trust in the state, it inevitably fails.

Sterlite Protest- Right to Kill

Police personnel shoots at protesters killing 14 at Thoothukudi
May 22, 2018, marked the 100th day of Anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. Thousands of protesters marched towards the Thoothukudi Collectorate in spite of prohibitory orders passed by the local administration. Violence broke out when police tried to stop the march. It was reported that the protesters pelted stones and torched vehicles. Presumed ingenious solution by the police department to calm the agitated protesters is to ‘Shoot and Kill.’ Police shot and killed 12 people on May 22, and one more on May 23. Another victim died 5 months after being in a coma due to injuries from police lathi-charge. A 17-year old female school student, Snowlin was one of the murdered victims, taking the death toll to 14. The protesters allege that the police started firing without any formal warning, and the police targeted the ‘head’ of the victims. The Tamil Nadu government shut the local internet for five days after the firing to avoid collective unrest.

Protest to close a Sterlite factory that had serious environmental concerns resulted in a state-sponsored massacre. Shoot to Kill order is used in rare cases and almost never in a public protest. But the Thoothukudi local administration shocked the nation with its blatant abuse of power. In November 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed cases against several ‘unidentified’ police personnel involved in the shooting. The whereabouts of the criminal conspiracy case and the policemen are yet to be known. 

Rape & Murder- A Police Brutality Story

Jayaraj & Bennicks
This story prompted me to dive deeper into the Police’s abuse of power. In retrospect, the murder of Bennicks and Jayaraj is petrifying. 

Emmanuel Benicks (31), a mobile-accessory shop owner and his father Jayaraj (59) were penalized by the Sathankulam local police for violating the lockdown curfew and running their shop late on June 18. The duo was later booked for allegedly arguing and assaulting the police. They were moved to Kovilpatti sub-jail on June 20, where the local prison sources found unfathomable injuries on Bennix’s knees and anal cavity; while the father Jayaraj had brutally maimed knee-caps. Rajkumar, a friend of Benicks asserts that 'On June 20 between 7 am and 12 pm, the duo had changed their lungies at least 7 times due to excessive bleeding.' The official report states that at 7:30 PM on 22 June, Benicks had chest pain and he was rushed to Kovilpatti Government Hospital where he later died. His father, Jayaraj too had a fever and was admitted to the same hospital before passing away on 23rd June. [Read more on]

Encounter Specialist- Our Superhero

Encounter Scene
On November 27, 2019, a 26-year old veterinary doctor was gang-raped and killed in Shamshabad, near Hyderabad. Her charred body was found in Shadnagar the very next day. India was shocked and reminiscence was in order. All eyes were on Shamshabad police to act. Within 24 hours, four Indian citizens were arrested for allegedly raping and killing the veterinarian. Large protests ensued, and protesters demanded the police to hand over the alleged perpetrators to them. The public was understandably angry. 

What happened next was something out of a cheap 90’s Indian- hit police/ revenge story. On December 6, the Shamshabad police with its chief V.C. Sajjanar took all four accused to the bridge on Bangalore-Hyderabad national highway where the victim’s body was found. The police would later tout that the 3:30 AM visit was for ‘reconstruction of the crime scene’ purposes, where two suspects reportedly stole the police’s gun before attacking them. While they (all 4 suspects) tried to escape, police shot and killed them. The onus was on the police to bring justice or pacify the public’s anger.  As expected, India celebrated the brutal killing. Celebrities and politicians welcomed the ‘Encounter.’ Thousands gathered near the bridge on the 6th morning and celebrated by setting off firecrackers while the bodies laid on the unburdened sun-kissed ground. 

Telegana People celebrating the encounter of 4 alleged rapists by Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar. VC Sajjanar is dubbed as an 'Encounter Specialist ' for murdering many alleged perpetrators (in separate incidents) since 2008. from r/WatchIndiaDieInside
Why did India celebrate the encounter? Why did we accept a frail backstory from the police? Does the end justify its mean? This is a classic-rife example of how we as a society impudently chose barbarism over rule of law. Ask yourself, Who had the most to gain from the encounter?- The Police force?. The skeptic in me ponders whether those 4 were framed to quell the police’s inadequacies. Even if they aren’t innocent, they deserved a lawyer and our judiciary system should’ve punished them. Lack of faith in our own constitution is alarming. If the alleged perpetrators were rich or a politician/ celebrity, they would’ve gotten a fair chance to prove their innocence. Why such biases? Police who target the helpless & economically backward citizens and abuse them to feed their crooked moral views are maintained as National Heroes.

V.C. Sajjanar, dubbed as an Encounter specialist, killed 7 people in his career. Four suspects from the 2019 Hyderbad gangrape case and three from the 2008 Warangal Acid Attack. Both incidents were eerily similar. Scanty Indian Human Right commission never took a noticeable stand against V.C. Sajjanar’s notorious habit. The public loves him. When are we going to realize that police brutality and self-centered morality is pliable? Those who rejoice today can easily be on the receiving end tomorrow. Mistaken Identity, False Arrests are no joke. We need to trust the system to punish the culprits. If we let people like V.C. Sajjanar to take matters into their own hand, we are normalizing vigilantism.

Seshachalam Massacre- New normal

Seshachalam Massacre
Another malicious encounter from the Andhra Pradesh police took place on April 7, 2015, where 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu were viciously tortured and killed. Earlier, police were tipped-off that a large number of sandalwood smugglers were trying to cross the Seshachalam forest. To tackle the situation a task force consisting of forest officials & armed reserve police were formed. During the ambush, it was reported that a dirty skirmish ensued between the police and woodcutters.

The inability to control the situation is directly proportional to Murder & subdue- A mantra that Indian police duly follows. Hence, they formulaically opened fire killing 20 men. The post mortem report revealed that the men were shot at a ‘close’ range. Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO), a fact-finding team visited the spot on April 11 and discovered several inconsistencies put up by the Police officials. CDRO claimed that it was a ‘fake encounter’ and sought CBI inquiry. [Source]

An independent 8-member fact-finding team headed by Retired Judge of Bombay High court found that the bodies of some victims are badly disfigured and had signs of torture. They concluded that in all likelihood the encounter was ‘Fake’. Three men who escaped would later testify at the National Human Rights Commission of India  (NHRC) hearings that, they were wrongfully detained and executed. Other two testified that “at least 12 of those shot dead were pulled off a bus by Andhra policemen and arrested hours before the controversial encounter”[Source]

What does Seshachalam Massacre tell us? Extrajudicial killing is a go-to method for the inept police force to close a pending case. Innocent lives were tortured and killed. Stories of ‘sandalwood smuggling’ were made-up. There was no skirmish, no policemen got hurt. It was an execution.

Lock Up- A Visaranai Story

No other story can sum up Indian Police’s inhumane attitude than M. Chandrakumar’s very own ‘Lock Up’, a Tamil novel based on his own true story. In March 1983, Chandrakumar was working at a hotel in Guntur, where he was arrested by local Andhra police along with few other gypsies on suspicion of theft. They were detained and tortured for 15 days in a woefully small chamber to confess for a crime they didn’t commit. Andhra Police's manipulative lie that few have confessed and hence they were safe/ well-fed, prompted some helpless prisoners to inadvertently confess in order to save themselves of misery. Chandrakumar endured the pain inflicted by the corrupt police and lived to tell the tale. How many pending criminal cases were ‘closed’ by exploiting innocent & illiterate Indian citizens? They use people who can’t fend for themselves or whom the society won’t care about as scapegoats for promotions and better posts.

Visaranai, a 2015 Tamil-language crime thriller directed by Vetrimaaran is based on the novel by M.Chandrakumar. I remember being shell-shocked while watching it in the theatres & I never looked at a Police official the same way, ever again. Stream it on Netflix to catch a glimpse of Chandrakumar’s story- Visaranai

Tenkasi Custodial Death

Tenkasi Custodial Death Protest
25 years old N. Kumaresan, passed away following physical abuse and torture by the local police. Kumaresan, an auto driver was called for an inquiry regarding a case of land dispute on May 8, where he was allegedly beaten black and blue. TNM report quotes A.Mariappan (Kumaresan's uncle) that 'Kumaresan was tortured and they hit him on private parts, lower abdomen and buttocks'. Upon returning home, Kumaresan was in a bad shape and stayed mute. On June 10, Kumaresan coughed up blood and was rushed to a local hospital in Surandai. In due course, he was shifted to Thirunelveli government hospital where the doctors discovered that Kumaresan’s spleen and kidney were injured badly. 

Kumaresan reveals that the cops physically abused him & threatened him not to speak of their iniquity to anyone. After fighting for life at the hospital for 16 days, Kumaresan passed away on 27 June 2020. Following protests from locals and Kumaresan’s relatives, a Sub-Inspector and a constable were booked. In the wake of George Floyd’s and Bennicks/ Jeyaraj’s death, police brutality stories are cropping up like unbridled weeds.

Jammu & Kashmir- The Crux

Unsplash.com | Representative image

The story of police brutality in India is incomplete without bringing up Jammu & Kashmir. Human rights abuse is prevalent and common in J&K, but the victim’s cry for help is largely ignored by the rest of Indian society. Kidnapping, mass killings, rape, torture, sexual abuse by the people in power are staggering. Shadow report for the Universal Periodic Review of India 2012- submitted by the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), infers that thousands of Kashmiris have been killed by the Indian Security forces. David.P. Forsythe in his book ‘Encylopedia of Human Rights’, reports that civilians including women and children were killed in ‘reprisal’ attacks by Indian Security forces.  United Nations, on its ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions’ expressed serious concerns over a large number of killings enacted by Indian military outlets. 

A Gender Critique of AFSPA: Security for Whom?- journal by Amit Ranjan, questions the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) which categorically grants special powers to armed forces that enable them to escape the shackles of law. The journal also quotes Professor William Baker that 'rape in Kashmir was not the result of a few undisciplined soldiers but an active strategy of the security forces to humiliate and intimidate the Kashmiri population'. AFSPA protects Indian forces who indulge in inhumane acts. It would take thousands of pages to discuss Human rights abuses in Jammu & Kashmir. Visit this page to know more- Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir by Armed Forces

Patriots who argue about ‘anti-national’ forces must think about endless civilian lives that are lost due to Police brutality. Life matters more than self-professed labels. Pride and Nationalism are nothing if we can’t treat human lives with dignity. As a law-abiding Indian Citizen and a citizen of the world, I call for action against people who commit crimes against Humanity. AFSPA disables accountability. 
[line]The above events are tiny planktons floating in the eternal oceans of sharks, dolphins, and other daunting deep-sea creatures. Do not forget the untold stories. Remind yourself of instances where people never stood a chance against pillars of power. Power, that is formulated to serve and protect us. 

Outrage & anger must be universal and fundamental for unlawful murders enacted by people in power.[line]

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