Custodial deaths can prove catastrophic for democracy
Authorities consider torture to be an interrogational tool for investigation and perceive that there is nothing wrong in punishing a victim in custody
Dr. Jehangeer Ahmad Bhat
The incidence of custodial deaths in the world’s largest democracy has outstretched eyebrows of every single citizen and shaken the very faith in democracy. The basic fundamental of a state is rule of law.
This is a fact that custodial violence and death is a dark reality in India, where the poor, the deprived classes, women and educated youth are the worst victims of police brutality in India. The police reflect the state and the state society. If the government becomes the law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become law unto himself, it invites anarchy.
Human right abuses in Jammu and Kashmir are an on-going issue. The abuses range from mass killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech.
Since the onset of insurgency in Kashmir, the brutality and suppression got impetus to vandalize normalcy in the Valley. Kashmiri people are being arrested by the security forces in order to sabotage the voice of Kashmir. Night raids, PSA’s, and arrest on the basis of suspicion rather than evidence leading to coerciveness by the police and very abuse of Human Rights.
In 2011 the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of Jammu and Kashmir found 2730 bodies dumped in unmarked graves in 38 sites in North Kashmir. Among them, 574 were identified as the bodies of local Kashmiris (Human Rights Watch, 2012).
Police, security forces and intelligence agencies use torture in the form of assault, physical abuse, custodial deaths, rape, threats, psychological humiliation and deprivation of food. Torture in custody is now considered an inevitable part of any police investigation as it is widely practiced throughout India.
Authorities consider torture to be an interrogational tool for investigation and perceive that there is nothing wrong in punishing a victim in custody. In India the rate of custodial deaths are alarming.
The Indian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) records that from 2001-2010, 14,236 individuals died in custody (1,504 in police custody and 12,732 in judicial custody), which is an average of 4.3 deaths per day.
Most of the deaths occurring are the direct result of torture in custody. All cases of death in police and prison custody are not documented because the National Human Rights Commission does not have jurisdiction over armed forces (section 19, Human Rights Protection Act (NHRC, 2011). These deaths occur either due to negligence by authorities, unlawful prolonged detention, and torture. India does not allow any international organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch or domestic human rights organizations, like the National Human Rights Commission, to document cases of torture and other abuses in the Jammu and Kashmir.
Recent custodial death of a young scholar brought Kashmir on the brink of yet another protest wave. There is also a sentiment of wrath in the valley for loses caused due to unlawful detention, which is Genuine.
Despite the intent to save democratic rights and maximum forces restraint, illegal detentions and custodial torture did cause grave injuries. Amongst every youngster in the age group of 13 to 27 seems to be inspired by militant thought even if most of them are temporarily not picking up arms as yet.
The inspiration is not coming from Pakistan or its intelligence agencies but from local militant youth icons like BurhanWani, Dr MananWani, who had thousand dreams and ended up a sacrificial victim and now so on… Because the youngsters are supposed to feel a sigh of relief by taking the revenge of what is been extremely done by forces.
In fact what is happening in the name of suppression and tyranny in the valley since decades is nothing but to flog a dead horse. Screwed up! With cap in hand, Kashmiri vulnerable youth call upon the authorities for grievances. So that by now the lives of Kashmiri people would be in serene and our environs will reverberate again with peace and hope.
Nevertheless, the establishment needs to chew the cud and tackle the issue head on before it blows up with vengeance.
Suggestion: Judicial and magisterial activism should intervene to avert custodial torture and mal-treatment. However, arrested persons should be given right to legal assistance during a trial when they are produced before the magistrate.
(The writer is a teacher)