Police brutality, again

Cops beat up Dalit farmer couple in MP over vacating encroached land instead of booking them and following the law

Police brutality these days is becoming more the norm than the exception. So weeks after the custodial death of two men in Tamil Nadu for exceeding a lockdown curfew by 15 minutes, policemen in Madhya Pradesh (MP) beat up a Dalit farmer couple for trying to save their crops from being destroyed by revenue officers. Again, there seemed to be no reason for excesses over a dispute that could have been handled reasonably and within the ambit of law. The farmer couple had been growing crops on a piece of land supposedly allotted for a medical college two years ago. So when a revenue department team went to get the land vacated, Ram Kumar Ahirwar and Savitri Devi resisted them, pleading with them not to crush their standing crops. When the team went ahead with their machines, the couple went on to consume pesticide, fearing they wouldn’t be able to meet their debt burden of Rs 3 lakh once their crops were destroyed. It is then that the accompanying police team assaulted them, their family members and dragged them to an ambulance. The Dalit couple never claimed ownership of the land, they just wanted time to protect their crops. Yet the Guna district police lodged a case against the couple and gave its personnel a clean chit. Agreed that the couple had encroached on the land where the Government had not moved in all this while. And when it rightfully decided to do so, it could have booked them and resolved property rights as per the law than doing something so drastic.  

However, atrocities against Dalits are not new, abused as they are by the police and society at large. Would the police have acted as harshly had the land been encroached upon by a privileged, upper caste farmer? Of course, cases concerning Dalits become common fodder for politicking. So Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted a video of the assault, considering that it happened in Guna, the borough of former Congressman and now BJP leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. The dig about his inability to stop police excesses despite being a member of the ruling party in MP was unmistakable. But that does not absolve the Congress either which has had its share of police excesses when it was in governance. Also in Rajasthan, where the party is in power, official data points to a 47 per cent increase in crimes against Dalits in 2019 compared to 2018, the highest in a decade. And the numbers of victims, soft targets like SC/STs and minorities, who don’t have the wherewithal to fight back, keep on rising. Even where cases do get filed against errant cops, they drag on in courts as the offenders are never put on trial or moved out of the public eye to other posts, protected as they are as tools of the executive. Sadly, for all the recommendations on police reforms and the Supreme Court’s directive to set up police complaint authorities at the State and district level, compliance is a far cry. Certain clauses need to be worked out for protecting the victim. There should be no restrictions on who can submit a complaint as this would imply deep distrust of the affected and put the onus on them. Neither should the victim be made to file a sworn affidavit, which creates a burden, particularly for the poor and vulnerable, instead of encouraging them to come forward. Besides, policemen need to be made aware about the degree of sensitivity with which certain cases need to be handled. Till we as a society demand a rule of law over rule of force, such transgressions will continue.

Source: The Pioneer