Friday, October 22, 2004

NHRC exposes two faces of the police

New Delhi, Oct 22 : The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has accused the police of discriminating against people from the socially underprivileged classes, bordering on sabotaging justice.

An NHRC report on prevention of atrocities against the Scheduled Castes (Dalits) has found that the police went out of their way to protect members of high caste Hindus who perpetrate violence against Dalits seeking justice.

"The problem starts with registration of the case itself. Police resort to various machinations to discourage Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from registering a case, to dilute the seriousness of the violence and shield the real accused (who may be caste Hindus)," it said.

If at all the police register a case, they refuse to file cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, so as to avoid punitive measures against the accused, the report claimed.

The only register the cases under the Protection of Civil Rights Act, a much leaner act.

The failure results in the perpetrators being punished with a lesser sentence, rejection of claims for compensation by the victims, and release of the accused on bail.

But the most obvious form of state violence against Dalits was the treatment meted out to them in police custody in connection with criminal case, petty cases of theft and minor offences, the report said.

It claimed that police reserved barbaric interrogation methods for their Dalit subjects, inflicting serious injuries on them that often end in their deaths.

"The custodial deaths are covered up usually," it said, adding that killing of Dalits in gun battles was the next best favourite means of elimination used by the police.

Police also act with vengeance against Dalit activists fighting for their rights, by invoking harsh provisions of the law including the National Security Act, it said.

Though the report did not cite examples of individual case studies, it said that Dalits and Scheduled Tribes in Maoist strongholds face dual violence - from the caste Hindu landlords and from the state (police).

Usually Dalit women bear the brunt of such police violence, which the report said was "offensive and humiliating".

The NHRC study said the apathy and bias was not confined to police personnel alone, but extends to other agencies of the government, including the district civil administration.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service, October 22, 2004

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