PEOPLE'S PARTICIPATION TO ELIMINATE TORTURE AND ILL TREATMENT
(Dr. Syed Mahar-ul-Hasan)
Terrorism and violence are definitely against humanity. Their perpetrators should never be forgiven. The problem with these acts is that they breed further violence and acts of terrorism, state terrorism and violence, and torture by state machinery is still worst. State has the power and the machinery (bureaucracy, police, paramilitary forces etc.) by which it justifies all its actions, manipulate the legal system to its advantage by appointing commission and committees to look into the matter. Delays – prolonged delays hamper the inquiry, let people forget what has happened, and if by chance anything against the state and its officials is reported, it has power not to accept the report or not to act on the recommendations. Shrikrishna commission report on Mumbai riots (1992) is one example, what happened to the policeman indicted in the report. Gujrat riots (2002) case is another example, where inquiry is being conducted against the government which continues to be in power. As a result the statements by two senior IPS officers were considered unreliable.
Times of India (June 20) news on Soni Suri highlighted this situation. Soni Suri, a 35-year-old Adivasi teacher arrested on unproven allegations of being a Maoist. Sympathizer was tortured in police custody and further atrocities were committed on her in Superintended Police's office and on his orders. Though, the international organizations asked the govt. for impartial inquiry, the superintendent of police was awarded police medal for gallantry for his role in counter insurgency.
The theme of the present national consultation is "testimonial campaign contributes to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of tortures in India," is very appropriate, and the works initiated by the collaborating organizations PVCHR, NATT, RCT and European Union projects are very encouraging and need further impetus.
The actions should be taken to sensitize police personnels and judiciary (at district and subdivision levels) on the one hand and massive awareness program for the people in general on their rights, constitutional provisions, and what behavior is to be expected from police and authorities in a democratic country where its people's govt. and all govt. agencies are for the welfare of the people and to serve them need to be taken up urgently. Sensitization and awareness programs should be organized at district and block levels, and within each district block individually be identified and groups formed to further disseminate the message.
Taking clue from recent episode conducted by Amir Khan, especially the one on child abuse and the reports that followed, many children got the courage to tell their parents and grandparents about the problems they are facing from family friends and relatives, there should be a regular program on television at prime time showing positive picture of handling and managing torture and ill treatment and steps taken to eliminate impunity for perpetrators of torture, will go a long way in creating awareness, in helping people to act, to break silence, to raise their voices. This feels necessary as in mass media (TV and films) an unfortunate trend is growing where people, encounter specialist persons inflicting torture and ill treatment in police custody are being presented as heroes.
Inhuman treatment by police should not be tolerated, people have to raise their voices, judiciary should be sensitive in these cases. They should not ask another group of police officers to conduct inquiry and submit the report within a given time. During this period the victims suffers continuously. A different approach needs to be followed to help the victims. Why not the concern judge (a magistrate in subdivision/district) personally inspects the police lockups and jails where the victims are put in and make an on-the-spot inquiry to ascertain what is actually going on. Then he/she may ask some impartial lawyers or respected civilians to accompany him/her on such visits. This will enable the judge to decide whether to keep the victim in police custody or not. The recent case of Pinky Pramanik, the Asiad gold medalist, needs to be looked under this suggestion. West Bengal Human Right Commission took cognizance of the complaint alleging inhuman torture both in jail and police custody to Pinky Pramanik, and asked the home, health, and police department to inquire and submit the report. The victim will continue to suffer till the report is submitted and will the concerned authorities do justice to the victim on which conducting inquiry or try to safeguard the interest of their officers.
In all such cases immediate action is needed, victim needs to be protected, perpetrators to be taken to task and exemplary punishment be given.
In a democratic country, people have a right to get involved in these processes, not by revolting against the system, but by cooperating the system where they can play a part constructively.