Police Brutality: Condemnation and Praise

“I say this with all sense of responsibility that there is not a single lawless group in the whole country whose record of crime is anywhere near the record of that organized unit, which is known as the Indian Police Force”
-Justice Anand Narain Mulla

After George Floyd’s tragic death, protests erupted in all of the world to speak against the power Cops held over minority groups in America.
How many minorities have to die in India, so that people realize the power cops hold over the voiceless and the powerless?

On June 19th, Bennicks was in his shop when he got to know that his father Jayaraj was picked up by the police. Bennicks then hurried to the Sathankulam police station, only to be arrested himself.

On June 23rd, the police told Bennicks’ family, that both the father and the son had succumbed to their injuries at the Kovilpatti Government Hospital.

According to the police, on June 19th, both the father and the son were arrested. They stated that,“Their Shop was open after the curfew time during the lockdown. Jayaraj, his son Bennicks and a few other friends were standing outside the shop. We told them to disperse. While others went away, Jayaraj and Bennicks sat on the ground and abused us verbally and rolled on the ground. In this, they suffered internal injuries.”
Though eyewitnesses said the latter is false as Bennicks went to the police station later that day ,

even if we try to believe the police’s statements of the event, it is highly unlikely that two people died due to injuries suffered by rolling on the ground.

Eyewitnesses alleged that after sub inspector Raghuganesh arrived at the station, the violence increased and more people joined in assaulting the duo. Eyewitnesses also alleged that the father and son had to change as many as six lungis each, as each one was drenched in blood.

Percy, Bennicks’ sister and Jayaraj’s daughter, alleged that the policemen “attacked them in the anus”.
She also revealed on June 24th, to media outlets, that the policemen had pushed her father by his neck to the floor and beaten him. When her brother, Bennicks questioned why, the police hit him too. Then they thrashed them both for almost two hours, after locking the door.

As the demands for justice grew louder ,and people outraged both in real life and on social media, the Thoothukudi police suspended two sub-inspectors in the Sathankulam station, though they did not admit to using force on either Jayaraj or Bennicks.
On June 24th, the Madurai bench of the High Court ordered the Superintendent of Police, Toothukudi, to inquire into the matter and submit a status report.

Although, I’d love to say that this is the first incident in India where someone was killed by the police, but this is a country where movies like Dabbang break box office records, where the cops are championed and glorified for practicing police brutality and “taking matters into their own hands”. We, as a country, have not only normalised Police Brutality, but we have also Romanticised it.
Only a few months ago, in February 2020, a man named Faizan was beaten up and was made to sing Vande Matram, along with four others, as the Delhi Police recorded the video. Two days later the man who was shot, during the Delhi Riots, took his last breath.
You’d think that people would outrage about an incident like this, but the Internet was quite torn. While some condemned this act by the police, others praised it under the guise of the allegations that these men could have been rioters taking part in the riots.
It seems that the people need to be reminded that the police is not supposed to kill guilty people either. They can’t be the judge, and the executioner themselves.

Which brings us to another case, that happened in Hyderabad. In November 2019, a veterinary doctor was gang raped and killed by four men. While the police was condemned for not taking action before the atrocity was committed (even though the matter was reported to them by the doctor’s sister), they were praised by the very same people for shooting the suspects dead. [6]
And while you may think that the guilty were brought to justice, the system which allows women to be raped and the police to sit quiet, never got fixed. Instead, they gave the very same police officers the power to shoot people dead to satisfy your blood thirst.

Between 2017 and 2020, over 5000 encounters have taken place in Uttar Pradesh alone. That is an average of 5 encounters per day.
During the lockdown alone, there were at least 14 cases where people were victims of police brutality.
Not four days after Jayaraj and Bennix died, another case of death due to police brutality was reported.
On June 27th, 19-year old heart patient, Sagar Chalavadi died of a heart attack after being lathi-charged outside an SSLC examination centre, in Karnataka.

What is saddening is the fact that most people fail to draw the parallels between most of the victims of police brutality being minorities and/or from economically weaker sections. Most Indian news outlets didn’t even mention that Jayaraj and Bennix were Christians.
According to a news report by Muslim Mirror, a total of 1,731 people died in custody in India in 2019 alone. Out of these most belonged to the poor and marginalized communities including Dalit, tribal, and muslims.

In India, people praise the police for acts of violence against those whom they think are in the wrong and condemn the acts of violence against those whom they think to be right.
That is why violence against an alleged rioter is justified but a simple shop owner isn’t.

What people fail to realize is that, every time they justify acts of violence by the police against an alleged rioter, or even a rapist, they give them the power to do the same to a student taking an examination, or a shop owner who kept his shop open after curfew.

Article 21 of the Constitution says that no person can be deprived of his or her life without the due process of law being followed.

Section 46 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, while explaining how an arrest may be executed, says: “If such a person forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or attempts to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.”
Sub-clause 3 of Section 46 further says: “Nothing in this section gives a right to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for life.”

Even after these laws protecting the citizens of the country, the police have the power to get away with killings like these with nothing but a temporary suspension, or best-case scenario – a permanent one.
According to an article in The Hindu, “Custodial Deaths have been on the increase in recent years. They increased by 9% from 92 in 2016 to 100 in 2017, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Since policemen responsible for custodial deaths, rarely get punished, they feel emboldened to continue using torture as the tool to get to the truth. In 2015, for instance the police registered cases against fellow police officers in only 33 of the 97 custodial deaths.”

Many questions preoccupy people’s minds, like why did the police take Bennicks and Jayaraj to a prison in Kovilpatti, when there is a jail located in Perurani, closer to Sathankulam?
Who is going to conduct the inquiry against the policemen?

While, these questions will likely be answered, soon, some questions remain unspoken; Why is it that the only time the voice of a person belonging to a certain minority, loud enough for Indians to hear, after they are dead?
Why are cops not given better training, that help them serve the people instead of holding power over them?
And above all, when will Indians start advocating for their own minorities, and prioritise them over minorities of other nations?