Policy Brutality: How Do We Fight for Real Change?
A 14-year-old writes to ask why we are not taking the fight against police brutality as seriously as she is.
While there has been a huge media bombardment in all things related to Bollywood (Sushant Singh Rajput), Cricket (IPL) and Politics (Ram Mandir) there is little to no interest and awareness in a far deeper societal malaise – the issue of police brutality in India, which has become so normalised that it has already faded in our collective conscience and receives little to no media attention.
The macabre tale of the Jeyaraj-Beniks case, the custodial death of a father-son duo in late June this year in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, for allegedly keeping their mobile shop open 15 minutes past curfew, is just one of many examples of the barbaric behaviour demonstrated by the police.
Are We Asking Enough Questions to Usher in Real Change?
There are so many questions and so many wrongdoings in this situation, as in every situation related to police brutality, a term used to refer to various human rights violations by police. These include beatings, racial abuse, unlawful killings, torture, or indiscriminate use of riot-control agents at protests.
Firstly, the Constitution of India specifically states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law and these events are evidently a violation of the constitution. Moreover, it is the moral obligation of state authorities to respect and preserve the 'Right to Life' of every citizen. Our judicial system is meant to safeguard these rights, but these contemptible acts are causing the citizens of our country, especially young people like me to lose faith in our own institutions. When I read about the horror meted out to Jeyaraj & Beniks, and the accompanying statistics of police brutality, I was appalled. More than anything, it is disheartening and a little disillusioning, to see the officers attack and brutalise the very citizens they took an oath to protect with their lives.
How Should I, a 14-Year-Old, Process This?
Why does this happen? How can we prevent it? And more importantly, how should I, a mere 14-year-old process this? Do we want my generation to grow up in a society where we are afraid of the men and women in khaki uniform because they could use their power to abuse us?
In the USA, a hideous police brutality case rocked the entire United States and led to worldwide protests i.e. the “Black lives matter” movement. It was not the first case of brutality against the blacks in the US, neither protests new, but this case in particular triggered the people. In India, the Jeyraj & Beniks case became an issue, after a lot of people spoke about it on social media – influencers, celebrities, politicians and the common folk alike. The case seemingly was expedited, some action taken.
But the bigger conversation – about putting an end to police brutality seems to have quietly faded into the shadows of other breaking news and trends.
Here are the statistics again, since we seem to have forgotten about it: 1,674 cases of custodial deaths have been recorded in 11 months between April 2017 and February 2018, which implies over five deaths in custody per day, most of these cases are unheard of. The talk of police reforms first begun in the 1900s when we were still under British rule. From then to now debates have been held, articles have been written and individuals have protested for judicial reforms.
But we are yet to see changes at the ground level. Why? How many more such cases need to be reported before we finally demand police reforms? When will we put our foot down and fight for judicial reforms?
This selective activism we see, is an issue of its own which needs to be looked into and addressed separately. After all, how will the youth of our country, someone like me, be encouraged to fight for change when our role models don’t use their platform to advocate for change.
Our country needs to come together and unite on this front. We need a mass movement if we ever want to see change. The brutal deaths of Jeyaraj and Beniks should have been a wakeup call for us and not just another story that we rage about for a bit and then forget. We should have been protesting for equality and recognising the dire need for police reforms in order to build a society based on the values of trust and belief in which the police are our protectors, not our predators.
The objectives stated by the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain the unity and integrity of the nation. It is high time we revisit these constitutional values and work towards being the kind of society and country that we aspire for and want to leave behind for the coming generation.
Or is that too much to ask for?
(Saanya Anand is a 14-year-old studying in Class 9 at Vasant Valley school, New Delhi. She believes in having an independent opinion and raising important issues that impacts the current society and future generations. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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