Police Brutality is the ‘law of the land’ in India:

We need to oppose it tooth and nail

We are concerned over the near collapse of India’s political set-up. Democracy is under great strain in India. Major organs of State that sustain democracy such as impartial and fearless judiciary, an independent press and conscientious legislature are on the retreat. There is no rule of law. Democracy is a thing of the past. State repression is the only voice one hears in this police state. The police are law unto itself. This situation of lawlessness is particularly disturbing in the Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir, besides the northeast, these days. ‘What Haryana police men did to workers of a factory at Gurgaon on Monday should rank as one of the most violent display of police atrocity. They rained lathis on the men pinned to the ground in the same manner in which the British used to subdue the Indians before Independence’, says the editorial of The Tribune, once number one newspaper of Punjab and Haryana. This paper kept silence on the recent spurt of terror let loose by the police on people of Punjab, especially the Sikhs, women and even the handicapped. This newspaper blacked out the conventions held by the Punjab Rights Forum at Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar.

And it was left to the Hindustan Times’ Resident Editor, Kanwar Sandhu, to comment upon the situation in his ‘Point of View’ column, on July 23, as, “In Punjab, the added factor that needs to be arrested is the tendency of the state police to launch a witch-hunt in the country side in the name of preventing a revival of terrorism. The other day, the CM did caution officers on this. Recent mass arrests in the state by the police have caused much resentment in certain areas of the state. After it failed to get any clue about Jagtar Singh Hawara, one of the main accused in the Beant Singh assassination case after his dramatic escape from the jail, the police clearly over-reacted. Strict hands-on policing is one thing but such acts provide an impetus to terrorism- as it happened in early 1980s in the state. Though one foresees no chance of a revival of terrorism of that kind, the police lawlessness could have a bearing on alienation of the people in the run-up to the polls.”

And Ritu Sarin of The Indian Express on its front page, filed three stories this week under the heading, ‘Express Investigation’, to feed the readers with information and apprise them of the current law and order situation in the state. Ritu Sarin wrote, “As of now, Punjab police men are compiling the increasing pile of interrogation reports of the arrested persons… Already under the pressure from his political rivals and human rights groups, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh last week held a marathon meeting with the Police. He told The Indian Express: “The instructions I have given to the police are to be(come) effective but not to indulge in competitive policing. I do not want a situation where one district of Punjab is competing with another in the tracing of human bombs.”

Earlier, International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) chairperson wrote a letter (email) to Capt Amarinder Singh, on July 19, saying, “The state police have undoubtedly failed to deliver the goods. These days, it is busy in terrorising the people, especially the Sikhs, their leaders and human rights defenders, only to retain chairs, which they do not deserve… and I hope you will bridle the police and it’s DGP.” Next day, the DGP SS Virk took a u-turn and said that there were no human bombs in the state and in the history of Punjab; there was only one human bomb, who took away the life of former CM Beant Singh in 1995.

Ritu Sarin also took notice, though sarcastically, of the IHRO letter and the activities of its Punjab Rights Forum in the Express story ‘Militant threat raises political rhetoric,’ of July 27: “… Amarinder is also facing fire from the irrepressible human rights lobby in Punjab, led by Punjab Rights Forum, which has now accused him of letting loose a reign of repression on young Sikhs and women and demanded that the state government keep its police force and it’s Director General, S S Virk, in check.”

Besides this, the spate in cases of harassment of innocent Sikh youths by the police in various parts of Jammu, especially in the wake of the bomb blasts in Delhi cinema halls, has increased. Many relatives and family friends of Sikh activist Ranjit Singh Neeta and his wife Charanjit Kaur are being subjected to harassment and torture. And to monitor these state atrocities and express solidarity with Jammu Sikhs, the Punjab Rights Forum will hold a convention in Jammu on July 30. The rights situation is allegedly alarming there.

All this apart, no supreme court, no high court, no national or state human rights commission took suo motu notice of the atrocities committed on the Sikhs. When the Sikhs react to these situations they are dubbed as repressible, separatists or terrorists (Khalistanis). Never mind, we should continue to oppose the police atrocities tooth and nail and extend our mission to every nook and corner of the world.

D S Gill
Chair IHRO