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      Volume 10 |Issue 31 | August 12, 2011 |


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Human Rights

What has gone Wrong with our Police?

Mohammad Ali Sattar

Abdul Kadar, a Dhaka University student.

Finally, Abdul Kadar limped out to freedom after 18 days in detention. He came out of the prison cell of BSMMU only to be shifted to the orthopedic department so that his treatment could be continued. He was mistreated by doctors even during his admission as they hesitated to admit him without orders from high ups.

Kadar was picked up by the police 'along with one of his accomplices' from Segunbagicha area around 1.30 in the morning on July 16. He was on his way back from his cousin’s to his dorm.

Why was he picked up in the first place? Was it the wrong time for the young man to be out in the streets at that hour? Or a case of mistaken identity? It was none of those things.

The unfortunate Kadar was a victim of a dramatic situation. He was unfortunate to get caught in the mess. Just as he was strolling towards his destination, a mugger or whatever passed by him was chased by the cops. In the run of things, he was also caught by the pursuing cops as an accomplice of the miscreant.

The tragedy for Kadar starts here. The police took him to the nearby PS and beat him up mercilessly. Even when he identified himself as a student he was not spared. Rather the torture increased. Later, he underwent police bestiality in custody. Even the OC of the PS is reported to have chopped his leg with a sharp weapon.

More dramatic and interesting was the police clarification. They said Kadar was beaten up by a mob who suspected him to be a mugger and the injury in his body was due to mob beating. Regarding deep wounds he received from the weapons, police said, some in the mob were carrying sharp weapons and they had inflicted wound on Kadar with those!

Kadar gave a horrifying account of torture in police custody. He was beaten up mercilessly, he was left without water for eleven hours at stretch, and he was struck with weapons in his leg and left bleeding. He got medical attention much later than was necessary. These were only to make him confess his fault which he did not commit.

The police ought to be accountable for their deeds. Photo: Star file

We know our police is understaffed and over worked. They are under duress and are faced with situations that are at best hostile. In an overcrowded city, which is rampant with crime, police find it hard to negotiate with the crime and criminals. All understood.

But the police are also a trained force. They are trained in mind and body. They are expected to be more understanding, tolerant and kind than the ordinary individual. They are supposed to be friends of the people and stand by them in all situations. They are aware of the fact that ours is a country where you have disproportionately huge population compared to the resources.

We have a few doctors for millions of patients, we have teachers far less than the students need, and we require more police members to match the need of the growing population. We are running short on many things in many areas! That does not give us the license to live a free-style democracy!

We are familiar to the occasional brutality of the law enforcing agencies. On almost all occasions it is a sad tale of the innocent being caught and made to confess the crimes that they did not commit. Some even were far from the spot or place of the occurrence. Some even do not live in the address recorded by the police. Many have been caught due to having the same name or a similar appearance as an accomplice of the culprit.

Interestingly, in many cases, when the police catch the wrong person, instead of admitting their fault and saying sorry, they go on making up stories that hardly match the facts. In course of defending their wrong act they recourse to physical and mental torture of the persons in custody.

So how do we address this situation? It is solely the government's responsibility to take up the matter with utmost seriousness. While the importance of the police force cannot be underplayed, it is important that the institution undergo a radical transformation.

The age old regulations and acts must go and the force must be graduated to a level that is in conformity to the needs of the civil society. Reformations will bring in better training and other facilities. But what is most expected is reforming of the way police operate.

Plain and simple, the police ought to be disciplined and answerable for their deeds. There has been hue and cry over the police atrocities for quite some time now, but things are not improving. The high ups (in the police department and the home ministry) should take into account the public mood. They should look into allegations against the police in the right perspective.

Kadar is only one of the many shocking instances of police highhandedness. Reports keep pouring in from across the country about the questionable roles of the police members involved in wrongdoings.

To say the least, there has been a serious plunge in the moral issues among the police. If these are due to the overall socio-political scenario, there is reason to be alarmed. We know the circumstance that they have to work in, and the stress that they are in tackling all kinds of situations round the clock. The shortage of manpower, lack of facilities and inadequate pay – all combine to make their job a tough one.

But that does not make up for the wrongdoings by some over zealous police members. If a few over-enthusiastic members go on reacting the way they sometimes do, this will only manage to further stain the image of the institution. Along with required facilities and perks, police discipline should also be raised.

We want a tolerant force for the people to whom we can look up as trusted friends, not adversaries who inflict wounds on hapless souls. Once people lose trust and faith in a state institution, it ceases the right to claim to be working for the people.

Post Script: A prominent Bangla daily carries a report with pictures (Aug 8 issue) on how police in Noakhali handed a young boy Milon to the mob only to be beaten to death. The cops then carried his body away. Believe it or not!

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.



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