News reports say the police indulged in blatantly brutish treatment of participants in the CAA-NRC-NPR protests. Policemen kicked and punched women in the abdomen, pulled their veils, burqas and hijabs off, touched them inappropriately and passed lewd remarks on their bodies. On 10 January, in their report published in The Times, UK, Hugh Tomlinson and Saurabh Sharma write: “Take her veil off, check if she’s a man,” one officer yelled, pointing to Salma Hussain, 29, who wept as she recalled the humiliation. The women were groped and officers commented on their breasts as they beat them. “One man put a gun to my head,” said Tabassum Raza, 26. “‘He said: ‘Tell me where the men are hiding or I’ll shoot you.’”
Even in the capital there have been reports of burqa- and hijab-clad women who were participating in the protests being targeted by the police. Lucknow-based activist Sadaf Jafar, where she details how a particular male police officer pulled her by her hair, kicked and punched her in the abdomen until she started bleeding. Of course she got to hear the communal ‘go to Pakistan’ again and again from the ‘protectors’ of the masses.
There would be havoc in smaller towns and villages, considering the extent of brutality in bigger cities. In open and closed prisons, the imprisoned are at the mercy of the police. Which inmate will carry the courage to even whisper the barbaric tactics involved!
Today, right-wing communal rulers and babus even more vitriolic than them have been hand-picked to fill official positions, from where they further the ruling party’s agenda. The police cannot be expected to remain unbiased while all this happens. Experts chant on national television that many more policemen and -women need to be added to the police force.
I would suggest that India should first sensitise and humanise the existing forces. Also the recruitment process should be absolutely transparent, even more so against the backdrop of reports that right-wing men are finding sinecures out of turn.
Recent shots of women being pushed, pulled and slapped by the police force are unnerving. They remind one of how police and security forces indulge in violence all too often in the Kashmir valley. I have been a witness to police brutality on Kashmiri men, women and even children, on the roads and lanes and by-lanes of the Valley.
I have also been subjected to the police’s violent ways, their sickeningly crude and humiliating security frisks. Let me narrate just one such experience. An over-enthusiastic policewoman posted at a check-post at Srinagar Airport touched my body as thoroughly as she could and just as I was about to walk on, she leaned in, came closer and said, “What’s this… this long thing here… something is sticking out… in the last hijack...”
“I’m having my menstrual period,” I whispered back.
“Madam, chottawala—the smaller one…”.
“Terribly heavy flow…,” I started to explain, but she pulled away, exclaiming “Aiyyo!” and let me pass, hastily, as though I was about to bloody her khakis!
My plight was nothing compared to the elderly Kashmiri woman passenger who was also standing nearby. She was made to take off her spectacles, chappals, socks, untie her thin grey plait, lift her kurta, remove her dupatta. Towards the end of it all, she was so nervously rattled that she undid the drawstring of her shalwar and pushed it down. With her arms trembling, she muttered, “This was the only place left to be searched!”
This particular incident happened around 2002 at the Srinagar Airport. Years have passed, but memories of those rounds of humiliation and fearful apprehensions cannot be erased. Kashmiris go through such trauma on a daily basis. They cannot even cry out even if raped or molested or abused.
Leaving you with a thought: With the four rape convicts in the Nirbhaya case set to be hanged soon—though, of course, the curative petition comes up for hearing before that—I have been thinking, why are we hanging these four? There are rapist mantris and santris and swamis and babas, and yet they go scot-free, too powerful and much too manipulative and well-connected to be touched, forget being hanged to death.
What happens to molesters and rapists in the security bandobast posted in the so-called conflict zones or “disturbed areas”? Protected they are by those “special” acts. Also, if the state cannot give birth then it must not kill, even more so if the human form is very remorseful, and pleading to be left alive.
Can there be better ways to deal with rapists? Can these four convicts instead of being hanged, be made to work in the prison all the remaining years of their lives? They say surviving with a sense of repentance and begging for forgiveness all ones life is tougher than being put to death in an instant... Think about it!
The author is a columnist and commentator. The views are personal.