Over 12000 People Have Died In Police Custody In India In The Last Decade. We Need To Review.

Whatsoever our dilemmas may be, no one in our generation can deny the importance of entertainment in these “turbulent” times. The stress of the day doesn’t matter, the frighteningly regular let’s-become-a-sheep-herder-in-Scotland thought, the countless pleasantries that are a part and parcel of living in today’s age of social delicacy, all these irritable factors are – if only temporarily – kept at bay by the waves of entertaining media we have available at our beck and call.

And the largest of these entertainment sources is the cinema. The film industry, nationality regardless, manages to churn out tens of good movies every year. We have socially educated, and, more importantly, socially aware film directors and producers that virtually guarantee every second movie to be tackling social issues head on.

We have Jeffrey Tambor’s Transparent, which shows the life of a transgender person, and we have Spotlight, which laid out the fact that several priests of the church are child molesters. But these movies are considered commonplace; the real blockbusters are the action movies, the thrillers that make your heart race, sequels to the legendary movies of old like Die Hard and Rambo.

In these movies, we often see the hero of the movie beat someone to pulp to extract information from him; the victim will eventually give away the information, the hero will rescue his girl and ride off into the sunset. The most notable example is the Dark Knight, where Batman gives the Joker a severe although appearing to be rather lame beating in a rather pathetic attempt to coerce him to give away his – actual – girl’s whereabouts.

This is a real topic of controversy – how far should our lawmen go in their attempts to uphold the law?

Police brutality is a very real domestic problem in a lot of countries, and not just for its tendency to be hushed up by the higher offices. We see the police as our ultimate protection, we look up to them in admiration; yet these events happen in this age of civility. We see movies applauding these controversial heroes who beat people, we see parts of society praise them on social media. Torture is condemned, both domestically and internationally. Inspite of this, there are shocking events happening every day in the world; events, if rumours can be believed, happen inside judicial houses and state buildings.

Police brutality and custody deaths have been brought under the light in the United States specifically for the unwarranted violent methods used by officers to control, restrain or otherwise subjugate detainees. There have been accusations of racism and ethnic discrimination amongst the officers, the majority of whom are white; videos of them fatally shooting fleeing youngsters have flooded the internet. One such fatality, that of Sandra Bland, caused such uproar that Senator Bernie Sanders even talked about her in one of his presidential campaign speeches – the first time any politician of any sort had spoken on the matter in clear words that were coherent and rational and actually made sense.

The situation in India is not as bad – on paper.

A country like the United States, where every document in the state machinery goes through the extensive process of digitization, has transparency at most levels except Hillary Clinton’s emails and that virtually guarantees many issues being brought up by the people.

A country like India however, where there is little concern for actual transparency and record keeping, cannot guarantee the same results. It simply cannot. I have known friends in school whose relatives in the police force abused their power. Kids hear about innocent people beaten when arrogant police officers simply take offense at things said and/or implied. We laugh about it, complain about it, talking about it in ponderous cynical monologues and drunken rants which we angrily assert the next day, and yet we do nothing about it.

Police brutality, and the custodial death count that comes with it, much like corruption, has become a sort of inconvenience (or is it convenience?) that we have learnt to accept (or embrace?) without question. We have learnt to take in shocking news in a mere second, we have learnt to accept major controversial news in a single comment deploring the state of the country. However, custody deaths and police brutality have been an issue worth talking about for the past decade:

For those statistically inclined, I’m throwing out some numbers.

2005: 128 deaths in police custody.
2010: 70 deaths in police custody.
2001-2010: 12,727 deaths reported in judicial custody. 

On average, 98 people die in police custody in India. These are completely unacceptable numbers. Humanity does not deserve to be ridiculed in such a fashion, with judiciaries and lawmen themselves borderline flouting the law. Custody deaths are the most reprehensible of all, because it means that the law is defeating its own purpose.

I can understand the reasoning behind a beating or some other form of coercion if it is going to get results, but taking the act to a level where the subject dies of injury is way beyond anything a moral human can imagine. 98 deaths on average every year is a horrifying statistic, it proclaims that violence is still a very normal thing.

There have to be ways of solving these “problems” in a better way. What that way is, isn’t for me to say.


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