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Where Is The Welfare State? The Dark Side Of Police Brutality In India

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When we talk about the police force, we often look at a picture where the police are supposed to maintain law and order, work towards reducing crime rate and adhere to proper detection and investigation of unlawful and dangerous activities. However, the circumstances are changing every day, and the picture keeps getting ferocious. The way police exercise its power by crossing all thresholds of humanity stands in front of all.

History speaks for itself, and so do cases like Nilabati Behera Vs. State of Orissa (1993) The Secretary, Hailakandi Bar Association Vs. The state of Assam and another (1996) along with the very important D.K. Basu Vs. State of West Bengal (1996).

All these cases illustrate common standpoints such as custodial torture and death, negligence in taking down the information of the arrestee, providing health check-up, look up for marks on the body if any, preparation of an arrest memo and all other guidelines laid down by the hon’ble supreme court in the D.K. Basu case. However, post-D.K. Basu guidelines haven’t been much of an improvement.

The Law Commission also developed that police don’t enlighten the arrestee about their rights. Absence of awareness of the police’s rights and moral responsibility to inform the arrestee of the same lacks big time in India.

Representational image.

The fundamental rights guaranteed to us by the constitution play such an indispensable role for every individual. Right when we start from Article 21 that declares no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by the law. The right is available to both citizens and non-citizens, along with protection against arrest and detention under Article 22. The point is every individual is given protection and a fair chance to prove themselves. Although, ignorance of human dignity and self-esteem amounts to a gruesome way of portraying police brutality into something that is normalized extremely easily, whereas, in reality, it’s a heinous crime crossing all barriers. The glorification of police violence is so much so that the victim or the arrestee inflates a fear in their minds before raising their voices.

The famous narrative of police using force to obtain a confession in movies and series corresponds to a blurred impression because none of that is legal. Factors such as lack of accountability, muscle power, and a political inclination of certain officers indirectly crumble down people’s faith away from the system.

In Sathankulam, hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of P Jeyaraj and his son Benicks when they were brutally tortured in custody and later on died. A similar instance took place in February highlighting yet another shocking incident when Faizan and a few other people were beaten up by the police in broad daylight; the entire incident was recorded on the spot by one of the assaulters being identified as a police officer asking them to prove their loyalty to the country by singing the national anthem while they were soaked in blood. Yet no action was taken against them. Similar to this was the lynching of Pehlu Khan that was filmed in broad daylight.

Some questions are often raised on the delay of judgment even when there are both soft and hard proofs present, yet they are ignored on purpose. One such example is police brutality on university students during the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) protest. However, raising questions, protesting, and the right to be informed are integral for democracy, and not doing any of these results in a flawed democracy.

The normalization of beating, thrashing, and violence by police in our society portrays this scenario as acceptable. The police are the most recognizable face of the state and are supposed to be effective and unbiased. However, a survey of more than 12,000 police officers conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that half of India’s police force feels Muslims are naturally prone to committing crimes.

At the same time, the Prison Statistics report of 2018 showed that the majority of prisoners in India jails are Dalits and Muslims. Such biases increase wrongful convictions. Furthermore, according to the CSDS report representation of SCs, STs, OBCs, and women in the police is poor with huge vacancies in the reserved positions.

To reform the police organization, the National Police Service Commission was appointed by India’s government in 1977. According to the NPC, the police cannot achieve complete success unless all wings of the criminal justice system operate with simultaneous efficiency. The commission produced eight reports on how Indian Police Organization can be improved, such as judicial inquiry should be made mandatory, the establishment of special investigation cells, guidelines regarding the use of handcuffs, surprise visits by senior officers, and so on.

Our police, by no law, have the right to torture any human being. There is a way law and order is supposed to work, and brutality is never the answer.

Even today, as India is shut down for a pandemic, the government is arresting students, activists, and artists by putting draconian laws on them, such as Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) National Security Act (NSA). The instances are heartbreaking, and what is more upsetting is the ignorance of authorities and government officials.

Emphasis has always been laid on empowering others around you. Awareness and education are the keys to fight against injustice and bring about a change we all need. The society is not made up of strangers but us who need to ditch selective activism and raise our voices against the wrong. ‘Power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely’ and in order to come out of the trap, being united is essential.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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