According to a report published by Tribune India on 19th October 2018, in the last seven years, more than 100 cases of UAPA detentions were recorded in Punjab and Haryana, months, and years of languishing in jails but only one person was convicted and 99 acquitted. That is the UAPA in India. Mind it, that each of these 100 accused spent an average of 2.5 years in jail before they were found free of any guilt. The data available with the National Crime Records Bureau Report 2018 suggests that the conviction rate of those prosecuted under UAPA nationwide was as low as 14.5%. Where a torture victim must wait for years in hope that a judge may one day take up his case, and the perpetrator is being promoted, the very concept of justice becomes a joke.
Let us keep aside these baseless convictions and biased proceedings, let’s see what happens in the custody of police once a person is maliciously framed and charged: the word custody implies guardianship and protective care, but that isn’t exactly what custody means to our police personnel. Torture that leads to custodial deaths (at the hands of those supposed to protect your life) isn’t considered a new deal; your dignity becomes a joke, abuses are hurled at you, your parents, and your entire community, racist comments are made, all so done by those who claim to be public servants. It’s a norm that after 10 pm, the police personnel gets drunk and beats those in custody with rods and baseball sticks, the public knows it, govt knows it and judiciary knows it. But alas! none moves a finger over that! Plucking the nails and hair, keeping the man standing for hours non-stop, refusing him even a drop of water is all too familiar who has suffered the fate of being in the custody. Methods of torture that were used in the prosecution centres in the dark ages of Europe are applied in the Indian jails on those whose guilt is yet to be proved! Is that torture carried out by the terrorists? Nay and nay once again, it’s the guardians of the public safety that do so in the name of duty!
According to the Asian Centre for Human Rights, the nationwide figures are four custodial deaths per day. There have been 7468 reported custodial deaths in just five years. However, the severity of the torture in India is far worse than statistics suggest. This is because victims rarely report cases against the police due to fear of reprisals. More than half the cases of custodial torture are not even reported. Conviction of only seven police personnel took place as against these overwhelming figures of custodial torture and subsequent deaths.
Legal services India reports that in Gujarat, the interrogation centres – often torture chambers – of the state police have been functioning in full public view. The suspects are brought in, kept in illegal detention and tortured as part of the questioning, and later killed and declared as killed in an encounter. This procedure is public knowledge, yet no one dares to challenge it. Officers, right from the top are involved in this endeavour. The state government admitted in court that it was aware of the existence of the interrogation and torture centres. The government also admitted that in several cases the officers might have also killed the witnesses of arrest and detention to avoid questions at a later stage.
So, now you are a student or employee as patriotic as imaginable, willing to serve the nation and work for it, and one day you are arrested by the police without any evidence against you, you are kept in jails and tortured daily, you are abused and emotionally destroyed; after years of rotting in jail, you are acquitted. By that time, you have lost your career, the educational flow has been disturbed, your colleagues are earning and living comfortably with their newly formed families and here you are in the most miserable condition possible! all that suffering you went through by the public servants being paid from your tax money working in the name of your nation protected by bills your nation has made; isn’t that enough to get you revengeful! Won’t that replace your good spirit with a broken one that doesn’t hesitate to hurt itself or anyone around! would you be wrong if you try to avenge the injustice done to you? Tihar jail and its jailors have turned more innocent people into nation-hating terrorists than Hizbul-Mujahideen could have ever done.
We need to stop criminalizing the innocent people, even the criminals are to be treated humanely and punished only according to the severity of their crime. The arbitrary bills like UAPA and sedition provisions have done more harm than good to the social harmony and peace. Such bills giving unchecked powers to the police must be done away with. We aren’t subjects of the government, we are the citizens and the source of ultimate power in independent India and we must be treated accordingly. The police personnel must be punished if it was found that it had laid biased and baseless charges and the victims are compensated. Custodial torture is supposed to stop!! Or else we would be just mocking ourselves to claim to be the largest democracy in the world. We would be fooling ourselves by celebrating Independence Day when each of us is at risk of being arrested by the police and charged with false accusations as per the whim and desire of the officers. Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs (the most backward classes) were found to be the most frequent victims of the claws of police and administration respectively.
Canada and Australia are two of the most peaceful countries in the world, (I didn’t quote Netherlands and Denmark so that the argument of small size not be put forward!) well, how did they achieve peace? Was it through anti-terrorism acts and bills! Was it through custodial torture and sedition charges! Or was it by making everyone feel at home and working for the welfare of people so that no reason would provoke a person to work against his nation? Terrorists aren’t born terrorists, they are shaped so by continuous marginalization, accusation, and torture.