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Victims of police torture in UP narrate harrowing tales
To commemorate the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, Centre for Contemporary Studies and Research, Human Rights Law Network, and Voice of People in collaboration with Dwaba Vikas Samiti, AIM, Wada Foundation and All India Secular Forum organized a multi state holder consultation in support of survivors of torture victims on 26 June at Hotel Clarks Awadh in Lucknow.

Every year, June 26 is observed as International Day in Support of victims of torture all over the world. On this day in 1987, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into effect.

The Indian government has not enacted the anti-torture law so far. As a result, torture is not regarded as a crime and continues to be part and parcel of law enforcement. Cases of custodial torture and inhuman or degrading treatment are reported at regular intervals in India. Many of the victims were lucky to have survived various forms of torture.

During the programme, 30 cases of victims of police torture were presented for discussion and out of which seven selected victims and survivors of police torture and other degrading treatment from the minority Muslim community and Dalits in Uttar Pradesh shared their experiences with the participants.

Out of these seven victims, five belonged to minority Muslim community and two came from Mushahar community. Mushahars of Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere are characterized as lower caste or, even worse; untouchables. Mushahar community is underprivileged in every sense of the word and is subjected to the worst treatment in every institution. The community is so impoverished that they hunt field rats to supplement their deprived diet.

The objective of the programme was to provide a forum where victims and their families can raise their voices against police torture and impunity and seek justice. The selected cases were the representative of the overall situation highlighting the growing incidences of human rights violations and especially police torture being suffered by the Muslim minority and other marginalized groups in various districts of Uttar Pradesh.

The session opened with a revolutionary song by Mr. Onkar from Jharkhand. Mr. Utkarsh Singh, Director, Centre for Contemporary Studies and Research, Lucknow introduced the guest speakers and conducted the proceeding. The participation also observed two minutes' silence to mourn the death of hundreds of people in flash floods and unprecedented destruction in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

Two books were also released during the programme, which are as follows:

“Clashing in on Prejudice – Police Torture of Muslims in UP” by Claudia Wikse Barrow

“Grassroots Reality of Communal Violence in Uttar Pradesh, India” by PVCHR

In his key note address, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Executive Director of PVCHR welcomed all the participants and said they had taken up 1000 Muslim cases and 800 non Muslim cases related to human rights violations and police torture. Out of which 40 cases were objectively examined during a Tribunal organized in Varanasi in April this year.

He also told the gathering that their organization has been working to promote and strengthen peace and harmony between Hindu and Muslim communities in Uttar Pradesh. A committee formed by the religious leaders in Varanasi in 2000 has been successful in maintaining communal harmony in the city with no incidents of religious conflict after that.

Among the victims from Muslim minority community included Mr. Ali Ahmed from Tanda who along with 40 to 50 Muslim families had to suffer due to a communal strife in the region in March 2013. Rashiuddin from Meerut revealed the victimization at the hands of police after the killing of his brother. Ikhlaq Ahmed from Etawa almost broke down while narrating the incident of brutal murder of his 22-year-old son after an inter-religious marriage inside the district court campus.

Aslam Parvez of Aligarh had to undergo severe mental and physical trauma after he was assaulted in a land dispute related to a mosque. He failed to get any support from the police. Shabbu from Moradabad was repeatedly tortured by the police on many occasions just because his brother married a Hindu girl. Bhonu Mushahar and Renno Devi both from Varanasi had the similar stories. They became victims of caste oppression and had to suffer at the hands of local police.

Mr. K.K. Rai, senior advocate of Allahabad High Court and director of Human Rights Law Network noted that the state of Uttar Pradesh is leading in cases of atrocities against women, Dalits and prisoners. Amid reports of false encounters and fabricated cases by the police administration, the Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission has not been able to play any effective role.

UPSHRC lacks proper infrastructure to handle the cases of human rights violations. The commission does not have its own website to inform the public. He said a committee comprising non-governmental organizations should be formed to develop guidelines on human rights issues.

Mr. Siddarth Kalhant, Secretary, UP Press Club pointed out that after listening to the victims it becomes clear that methods of torture are similar all over the country. Even the ruling class is not free from communal prejudices and judiciary becomes a party to it. Even media is suspected to carry a communal bias because they tend to publish police version.

Therefore, it is important that journalists, who are aware of human rights situation and work for it, should be encouraged and they should be given training to generate awareness in the society. He expressed his dissatisfaction over the working of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission.

Ms. Vandana Mishra, Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in her presentation described the police as an instrument of torture. She said these seven cases are just an example of police excesses, one can imagine the conditions of a vast number of people who face this treatment on a daily basis. Police does not register cases and arrest anyone, beat and torture to confess the crime. If a Muslim is arrested, he is declared a terrorist and if the arrested person belongs to other community or religion, he is declared a Naxalite. Police consider it their right to torture people who come from marginalized section of the society. Even Honorable Supreme Court has stated that this type of behavior is an affront to the dignity of the country and this practice should be checked. She stressed that today we need police reforms as the police and legal structure carry colonial legacy.

Mr. Pancham Rai, former registrar of High Court remarked that torture and harassment pervade in all structures of governance all over the country. Today its solution lies in understanding its root causes.  He pointed out a judgment by Justice Krishna Iyyer in which he quoted Leo Tolstoy’s words saying by merely abolishing words, main theme does not disappear.

Indians still carry the remnants of mental slavery of the past. A change in labels does not necessarily change the state of mind. According to him, caste, religion and colour are the driving force behind the prevailing discrimination. Even an educated Dalit or an educated Muslim does not get equal status and respect as deserved in society.

As long as this discrimination exists, violations of human rights would continue to happen. Today, the constitution is being misused. At the time of the formation of constitution Dr. Rajendra Prasad said that the constitution is good but if those responsible to implement it are not just and honest, then it would not be a fault of the constitution. What is needed today is self transformation which is crucial to transform the society.

Mr. Amitabh Thakur, an Indian Police Service officer said police is a public institution for the welfare of people. But police is used by those who are associated with political power; they are supported by the police. On the other hand, those deprived and marginalized are victimized by the police; they only get the support of people who work for the defense of human rights. He stressed on the fact that lack of awareness about rights gives opportunity to the police to act unconstitutionally.

Mr. Anil Dubey, National Secretary, Rastriya Lok Dal said political interference in police administration is to a large extent also responsible for the continued cases of human rights violations. Police and civil administration’s role should not always be seen in a negative perspective. These officials often work under pressure from political class. Police and civil officials should be appointed in key posts as per their abilities.

It is essential that when people go to vote in every five years they should cast their votes after assessing the abilities of the each candidate. The cases of these victims should be referred to the Chief Minister and he should be pursued to carry an impartial investigation so that they can get justice. Protest programmes should be organized outside the state legislature so that they can be forced to see that such incidents do not happen in future.

Professor Ramesh Dixit, leader of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) explained that democracy is dependent on the character of police personnel who are responsible to run the police administration. In 1975, during the emergency people were thrown into jails under various draconian laws. Today people are being jailed without the emergency provisions being in force. Police is all powerful, they can catch anyone, beat anyone. There is public outrage for example; in the northeastern part of India where people are protesting against the unchecked powers of police and armed forces to suppress human rights.

Azamgarh has been painted as a nursery of terrorism by the police and hundreds of innocent Muslim youth were detained and arrested. Even after that the country witnessed serial bomb blasts. These developments put a question mark on police role. Today Muslims are treated as criminals and even educated Muslims are being attacked under planned conspiracies. Oppressed section of the society mainly Dalits and Muslims are in jails waiting for trial for years.  

This is the real face of Indian democracy. Indian state is losing its democratic character and fascist forces are increasing their influence. It should be demanded that official powers should be used within the limitations of the constitution. Security of human rights can be ensured within a safe democracy.

Dr. Hans Van Villet, First Counselor, Head of Development Section, European Union praised the work of PVCHR in handling such a crucial issue of torture of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh which has the second highest rate of deaths in police custody in India. He said prevention of all forms of torture is a policy of European Union. Prohibition of torture is absolute in international law.

Quoting from Jean Paul Sartre, he said, “Torture is not only a tragedy for the victims but also it also degrades the perpetrator.” Europeans give financial supports for torture prevention, rehabilitation, awareness and advocacy to uphold democratic values. He said out of 27 members of European Union, 16 have ratified the UNCAT. India has signed UNCAT in 1997 but ratification is still pending. The Indian case was discussed at the Universal Periodical Review last year. The Indian bill on torture is still expected.

Ms. Vidyawati Rajbhar, Chairperson, Uttar Pradesh Shram Shalahkar Samit maintained that lack of education creates conditions which lead to increased chances of human rights violations. Victims are generally misled about their rights by certain interested sections as a result they cannot raise their voices with higher authorities. Victims are not given due attention; they are forced to run from one police station to the other.

Independent agencies should be engaged to investigate the cases of violations so that victims can get justice. It is generally found that honest innocent people hesitate to approach the police immediately and keep waiting as a result they not only suffer but also become victims of fabricated charges in the long run while criminal minded people succeed in manipulating the police machinery. Therefore, it is highly important that people should be made aware of their rights and fight for them.

Dr.  Bahadur Singh Yadav, Chairperson, Uttar Pradesh Technical Education Board said there are economic disparities in society which should be looked into. Money has a corrupting influence in society and politics. He applauded the role of Muslims during the Indian independence movement and expressed his concern over the increasing incidences of torture against Muslim community. The programme ended with a vote of thanks by Ms. Shruti Nagvanshi, Managing Trustee, PVCHR.

On the same day at 2pm the eight delegates (Shruti Nagvanshi, Raghib Ali, Idrish Ansari, Utkarsh Sinha, Anup Kumar Srivastava, Shirin Shabana Khan and one survivor Ahmad Ali) of PVCHR in the leadership of this citizen journalist met with Shri Akilesh Yadav, Chief Minister, UP and Director General of Police Shri Deo Raj Nagar at CM house 5, Kali Das Marg, Lucknow.

During the 30-minute meeting, many cases of communal riots, police firing, and police torture were discussed besides fake cases lodged against Lenin Raghuvanshi and Shruti Nagvanshi. We received pro -human support.

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