Police Brutality: The Sad Truth

From the dingy streets to the premises shown in broad daylight, from Nigeria to India, the notion of "police brutality" or "police violence" remains infuriating in its character. Amnesty International defines "police brutality" to refer to various human rights violations by police. It might include beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot control agents at protests. Such condemned actions of the police are a part of human rights violations but are rarely appropriately addressed by the state mechanisms. The breach of human rights raises public law liability and gives rise to profoundly sentimental disdain on a sociological level.

To frame a better understanding of the cruelty of such situations, here are two stories from different nations of Nigeria and India, yet they carry the same sorrow and grief of injustice.


A 17-year-old named Chigaaze lives in Nigeria and is the only son of his parents. One day, he is asked to go to the nearby store to fetch certain household essentials. Unfortunately, on his way back, he is met by the Police Unit of the End Sars Team. Due to having no money with him, he is stripped of his phone and arrested by the police and put into jail. The next day, when his parents reach the police station to inquire about their son, they are abused and sent home. In the week ahead, they turn up at the police station every day to seek information about their missing son, but all they face is abuse, beatings and are ultimately forced to return home.


One day, the officer-in-charge calls up Chigaaze's parents to come to the station. They turn up at the station brimming with hope, but only to hear the officer say that he has killed their son and they can do nothing about it. A week later, the shattered parents see a news flash stating that many dead bodies have been found in the river not too far from the police station. Suddenly they receive a phone call from the police station and are devastated to hear the officer say they can find their son's dead body in the river. Maybe they get to bury him. Despite these wrathful experiences, Chigaaze's father goes and swims amongst tons of dead bodies in the river to find his son, only to seize the last moments of peace for his son and to merely get to perform his last rites. This is not a sob story; it is evidence to highlight the extent of horror faced by people in Nigeria nearly every day.


Most of us would be familiar with this story, which comes from the town of Sathankulam in Southern India. Two men Ponraj and Beniks Jeyaraj, who reached their home in a literal blood-dripping situation, accused the police outrightly for their condition and died in the hospital minutes after. The police officers remained firm on their stance that they were in no way involved and that the case will be federally investigated. This is a recent example and not the only example.


Despite strict international and national laws and standards governing how and when police can use force - particularly lethal force, we see such happenings. The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (BPUFF) is the key international instrument dealing with police force use. However, custodial deaths have been on the increase in recent years in India. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recorded a staggering 1,674 cases of custodial deaths in 334 days (11 months) between April 2017 and February 2018, implying over five deaths in custody per day. Unfortunately, most of the deaths are registered as suicides or deaths due to medical conditions. For instance, of the 97 custodial deaths reported by Indian authorities in 2015, only six are listed as resulting from torture by police.


During COVID-19, the police have resorted to excessive violence and indiscriminate use of lathis (clubs) against people believed to be violating restrictions imposed by the states. We cannot even meet the prescribed criteria for the number of required police personnel by the UN, 222 police officers per lakh person. Instead, the few baton holders for safeguarding and protecting us are the ones tainting the profession meant to be of the brave and chivalrous.


Whether it is the infamous Rampur Tiraha Firing and the Thoothukudi Violence or the killings of Eric Garner and George Floyd sparking the massive Black Lives Matter protests, the hurtful sentiments remain the same despite the varying factors of topography or culture. The unlawful actions of the police, which are kept in guise, are the source of destruction and inhumane mindset. Families are destroyed, and people are hurt just because they did not know the value of their capacity as office-bearers.


Usually, these happenings go unaccounted for, and no one cares to point out a wrong, despite being fully conscious that it is wrong. The ideals of democracy and constitution account for verbiage until and unless the global community learns to be responsible, helpful, and united. As the saying goes, just by raising good children, we can assure a better youth for the future. In the same way, the change must start from the very basic ranks of police personnel in nations, which can reinforce the world's sense of pride in their police officers. Society is a crucial phenomenon that instils in us a sense of belongingness. One must be aware and not careless when someone has to face the wrath of specific office-bearers.


It is not only harmful and dangerous for a particular community. Instead, it hampers the collective attributes and notions of the whole nation and essentially the whole world. Alternative systems for tracking public complaints against the police are not influential and robust in their mechanism for redressal. Moreover, persistent ignorance for immediate reforms in this sector leads to widening lacunae which drowns the image of "police." The entrenched impunity must be destroyed by the prevalence of the ideals of honesty, efficiency, and responsibility, to stop this nuisance from deteriorating our faith in government officials and, more importantly, humanity.



References:

amnesty.org - https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/police-brutality/

nytimes.com- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/20/world/asia/india-police-brutality.html

blog.ipleaders.in- https://blog.ipleaders.in/law-rights-need-know-dealing-police/


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