Torture: a crime against humanity

Ms. Dulari, 28, old torture survivor from village Rup Ghausia, post-Sahijankalan, police station Robertsganj district Sonebhadra narrates in her testimony, “  By caste, I am Ghasia, a scheduled tribe. I have four sons and three daughters. It is with hard work and in great difficulty, we are able to earn our daily bread and feed our children.

The incident took place at 8:00 am on January 9, 2012 when my husband came back from Lucknow by train. He had come back after a performance at a program “Rhythm of North India.” Cops entered our house at around 8.30 am and they were 10 of them. I got afraid when I first saw them as they immediately started asking where Ram Surat was. I asked them what “was the matter gentleman” but instead of giving response four of them started beating me, they kicked me with boots and abused me with the worst of abuses. Hearing me cry my husband, who was sleeping, came out and shielded me by covering me but the cops, continued beating both of us.

Then they took my husband dragging till the fields while I was crying and screaming. I was pregnant then by nine months and could not even walk properly. I again asked the cops why they were dragging my husband in such a manner as he had returned back from Lucknow a few minutes before. The cops beat me up, abused me and threatened me to go away.  I could cling to my husband and pleaded the cops to leave him. I asked them where were they taking my husband but instead of giving a reply they continued beating him up at the fields and then turned towards me. They threw me on the ground with a bad thump and four of them kicked me in my stomach.

I was nine months pregnant then. As the kick touched my skin I screamed out of pain as if someone had taken the soul out of my body. I pleaded them with folded hands to let me go but my cries landed on deaf ears. All the cops and their senior officers could see I was pregnant but they paid no attention to this fact and continued beating me though any untoward incident could have happened with me. They showed no mercy upon me. Two of them hit me hard on my abdomen and that kick resulted in severe pain and uneasiness. The baby came out with the kick that cop gave me again and again. The baby was premature. There was blood all around and with blood on my entire body I was feeling unconscious. I don’t really know what happened to the child at that time as I was near total unconscious and was surrounded by cops then. Perhaps the day was a history that delivery was happening in the presence of the cops surrounding a woman. The protectors were there as demons for the mother and the child.

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In the entire episode when I was screaming in pain some of the neighborhood women came to help and pleaded before what they had done by risking the lives of both mother and the child. They said both of us should be taken to hospital. After my father made a phone call two human rights workers came and I along with my child were taken to hospital. Some of the cops also then said I and the child be taken to hospital but their Circle Officer said I should not be taken to hospital neither the child and no one should take them to hospital. He had asked the doctors that none from Raup Ghasia basti be given any treatment. The government hospital doctors made excuses that FIR should be first lodged before treatment and I was crying in pain. They were not moved with my screams. My family thought my child will not survive hence they brought us back home. Then with donations from villagers, I was taken to a private hospital and somehow the child was saved.

Having suffered major blood loss due to delay in treatment and wandering from one place to another in pain I was unconscious completely when I reached the hospital. I thought it was the last day of my life. On the one side I was afraid about my husband and my child thinking what cops might have done with my husband and when I regained senses I asked about my child and my husband. The basti people told me cops had taken my husband to Robertsganj police station. Even today it gives me chills when I remember that day of my life. I used to remain afraid every moment after that incident. I used to fear cops might come anytime and beat up me and my husband and put us in jail. Me and my family members fear for that incident. I went to Robertsganj police station but none of the cops listened to me and then I went to senior officials including the SP but could not get justice even there. Now even the neighbors have started making jokes about us, despite that we remain afraid all the time. But having told you all this I feel relaxed as nobody had ever asked me about the incident like this in details. Having talked to you I hope justice comes to me.”

“Torture is legalized state terrorism; India has the highest number of cases of police torture and custodial deaths among the world’s democracies and the weakest law against torture. The police often operate in a climate of impunity, where torture is seen as routine police behavior to extract confessions. The report from PVCHR fieldwork on torture analyses patterns and practices of torture in police custody with special focus on torture by prison guards, the military, armed opposition groups like the Naxalites (Indian Maoists) in north-east India, other public officials and non-state actors like upper castes, recovery agents of the Banks, Panchayats and so-called  civil society organizations.

Reported cases of abuse are highest among Dalits, Tribals and minority communities. The Indian system based on castes is diabolic and perpetuates discriminations and crimes against the weakest. The system is guaranteed by collusion between police and upper castes, which favor the stronger according to a semi-feudal order of things.

India has to immediately ratify the UN Convention against Torture, but sadly it wants to preserve the “nexus between police and feudal upper-caste individuals. There have been widespread national and international concerns for India’s poor human rights record and impunity.

First, with regard to prosecution for human rights violations including torture, law enforcement personnel continue to enjoy virtual impunity as their prosecution requires prior permission of the government under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and various Special laws.

Second, India continues to maintain a reservation to Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It states that under the Indian legal system there is no enforceable right to compensation for persons claiming to be victims of unlawful arrest or detention against the State. While the courts in India and National Human Rights Institutions have awarded compensation for human rights violations including torture,

India is yet to adopt any legislation recognizing the right to compensation for human rights violations. It is clear that Indian jurisprudence has annulled this reservation and therefore, there is no reason to maintain the reservation.

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The Government of India took a significant step when it signed the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT) in October 1997. The Government of India stated: “The Convention corresponds to the ethos of Indian democracy, rule of law, individual freedom, personal liberty and security enshrined in Indian polity. Signature of the Convention against Torture by India is an important milestone in the process of India’s continued commitment to fundamental and human rights of all persons and directive principles of national policy. Ratification of the Convention is to follow.

Despite holding the view that the UNCAT corresponds to the Indian ethos of democracy, the rule of law and individual freedom, India has failed to implement this clear commitment for the last eleven years despite ongoing use of torture, the repeated interventions of the NHRC, civil society organizations and repeated rulings by the Courts. Nonetheless, in 2004-2005, the Government of India established an Inter-Ministerial Group of the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice on the question of early ratification of the CAT.

On the specific recommendation by the UN Human Rights Council during examination of India’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review in April 2008 and 2012 to expedite ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the government of India stated that “The ratification of the Convention against Torture is being processed by Government of India”.

While the Inter-Ministerial Group has made no public recommendations the Ministry of External Affairs has drafted the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008 for the ratification of the UNCAT.

In order to “ratify the said Convention and to provide for more effective implementation”, in 2008 the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, has drafted the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2008. The Bill contains three operative paragraphs relating to (1) definition of torture, (2) Punishment for torture and (3) limitations for cognizance of offenses.

But now, “India is emerging as a corporate fascist state” founded on “a unique alliance of caste-based [groups], minority-phobia, and hegemonic masculinity-centered fascism with neo-liberal economic policy.”

India should approve a law against torture & mob lynching and start a multi-dimensional and multi-layered program for the elimination of this organized crime against humanity. This requires Human Rights based pluralistic education and diversity in schools, colleges, society and politics.

Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission on July 12, 2012 in a program on Testimonial Campaign Contribute to Eliminate Impunity for Perpetrators of Torture in India organized by People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi says, “The long-pending Prevention of Torture Bill has been enacted by the Parliament recently. This step has underscored India’s respect for human rights. The prevention of torture law is intended to align Indian law with the UN convention; the ratification of the convention will enable provisions in the convention to be part of Indian law. The prevention of torture law is a much-needed step to embellish India’s credentials as a country with a sound criminal justice system.” [i]

Justice K. G. Balakrishnan

Text of the speech of Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission on July 12, 2012 in a program on Testimonial Campaign Contribute to Eliminate Impunity for Perpetrators of Torture in India organized by People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

[i] http://twocircles.net/2012jul18/torture_one_most_common_forms_human_rights_violations.html


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