Deaths in Police Custody
The 10 Worst States
Tamirul Haq had just stepped out to buy some cigarettes, and probably told his family he’d be back soon. But the 42-year-old from Bengal’s North Dinajpur district never returned home. On the way, he questioned five policemen who were mercilessly dragging two men through the local market in Bariol. The infuriated cops started beating Haq with sticks and rifle butts. He was then taken to the Kotar police camp where he was tortured till he became unconscious. Haq was later taken to a nearby hospital but he had already died by then.
This case, from July 2010, is just one of the many instances of custodial deaths reported from the country. A recent report reveals that four custodial deaths occur on an average everyday. Compiling data from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) puts the number of custodial deaths for the decade 2001-10 at 14,231. This includes 1,504 deaths in police custody and 12,727 in judicial custody.
While judicial custody includes undertrials and those convicted (many of whom die due to old age and medical complications), it is deaths in police custody that raise concerns about torture. Maharashtra tops this list with 250 deaths, followed by UP (174) and Gujarat (134). Given that Maharashtra’s population is only about half of UP’s, ACHR director Suhas Chakma says the figures suggest torture is rampant there. “This high figure has to do with the practice of glorifying police brutality, something we have seen with the high number of ‘encounters’. This has extended to custodial deaths too,” he says.
As many as 99 per cent of the deaths in police custody—where those detained have no legal safeguards unlike those under judicial custody—happened within 48 hours of arrest. And yet, these figures comprise only deaths that the NHRC recorded. According to Chakma, the deaths reflect possibly only half the actual number. “Custody is often defined as the state when one is put in a lock-up but it should expand to include even those who are detained simply for questioning. Often many are beaten in public even before being arrested,” he adds. Moreover, the police don’t report all custodial deaths to the NHRC despite being required to do so. Conflict areas seem especially susceptible, with incredulously low rates of custody deaths—Manipur (2), J&K (6) and Chhattisgarh (24).
The total torture death figures also exclude those who died in the custody of the armed/paramilitary forces, which are exempted from reporting them to the NHRC under Section 19 of the Human Rights Protections Act. Kirity Roy of the Calcutta-based Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) says recent attempts to grant the BSF the power to “search, seize and arrest” and expand the force’s operations to zones away from the borders are not only “unconstitutional” but increase concerns about custodial deaths involving the paramilitary. This is especially true of the Indo-Bangla border where the BSF is deployed and already faces such allegations.
Despite the compensation efforts to the families of those killed in custody, Chakma argues that limiting such incidents is only possible if NHRC reports end up in prosecution. “If the station superintendent is suspended until an inquiry is completed, he will ensure there are no deaths under his watch. And even if there is one, he will identify the person responsible for it,” he says.
Custodial deaths are a consequence of institutionalised brutality (A Black Ledger, Jan 30). As per law, once a person accused of an offence is arrested, it is mandatory for the police to produce him before a magistrate within 24 hours which, of course, never happens. Later, after the victim ‘confesses’ to the crime, he or she is paraded before the cameras. And the media, with its lynchmob-mindset, broadcasts the police version as breaking news. You can be sure thereafter there’s no follow-up.
G. Ambler, on e-mail
Is it true that custodial deaths are actually the least in ‘right-wing’ ruled states? Why, is it because the media is extra-vigilant there?
The DEHUMANISING of males by the media is at the heart of the hatred against anything to do with males.
One incident in memory was the day light killing of THREE males who were accused of throwing acid on the face of a female. NO sympathy at all from the public since they were males, that too accused of a crime against the higher sex
It would be interesting to find out how many custodial deaths were propted by feminist / female pressure.
Agree! odd it may sound, not only the victims, even police were men.
7, Jackass, MALES are the common denominator here. It is their lack of political and social support that is glaring here. Why ignore the obvious?
Gonzo ! The picture shows the widow of an accused of terrorism and the written story starts with an isolated incident of death of a man in West Bengal, coincidentaly both are Muslims. The apparent idea is show the facets of Indian police brutality.
Tamirul Haq is like any unfortunate person like Natwar Patel, who might have been allegedly killed by Policemen. The policemen accused in the death of Tamirul Haqinclude a Muslim policeman. It is simply police brutality.
Faiz Usmani died of heart attack in a terrorism case where 26 people were killed. This terrorist attack was not the first in India. It is one in the long list of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam since 1993 which would need a tome to describe.
If there is any endeavor, even subtle, to show some prejudice against a particular community, it is fraught with serious repercussions. Muslims are looked with suspicion all around the world and they have themselves to blame. Osama Bin Laden might not have been a good human being for majority of people but he was a pious Muslim for a majority of Muslims. If there is a high percentage of Muslims in deaths in police custody, it would certainly be lower than their percentage in perpetrating the terrorist acts across Indian cities.
The torture of MALES in a so-called 'free democracy' continuing in spite of large scale extermination of male po;ice is baffling. The judiciary is complicit in this shameful act, and so is the media - for reporting biased ( feminist / police / judicial ) versions of the truth.
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