April 6, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Tamil Nadu government is doing enough to combat police violence. We also look at the efforts of the Himachal Pradesh government in reducing gender disparities, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Is the Tamil Nadu government doing enough to combat police violence?
As George Orwell pointed out, the promise of a violent system helps some people sleep at night. To satiate its moral imagery of vengeance, India has opened its theatres and hearts to many a Dirty Harrys in the past- who can forget Hari’s Singam or Abhinav Singh Kashyap’s Dabangg? The Dirty Harry problem is entrenched in real-world law enforcement too. It means using unconstitutional measures like torture and violence to pursue, although superficially, just ends.
Last week, news broke out of Ambasamudram’s Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Balveer Singh allegedly torturing a group of detainees. The MK Stalin-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government in Tamil Nadu has since ordered a probe and suspended the officer. But a recent report invokes doubt over whether the state has done enough to tackle the problem of police excess.
From 2016 to the beginning of 2022, there have been 11,419 fatalities of suspects in police custody in India. Tamil Nadu reports the highest number of deaths in detention among India’s southern states. Extrajudicial violence occupies a huge fraction of the state’s law enforcement history.
It’s a form of punishment, whether mental or physical torture or murder, carried out by officers without constitutional acquiescence or judicial supervision. It happens when law enforcement authorities, whether the police or the military, take justice into their own hands instead of relying on the constitutionally mandated justice system.
In the aforementioned period, 478 suspects in Tamil Nadu died in police detention. Hundreds of them, due to police excesses. Until December 2021, there were 1,775 detainees in the state – the highest number of detainees across the country, and by a huge margin.
A bookmarked page in the state’s history of brutal police violence is the Mudukulathur Riots. Amidst caste violence, there were reports of the police arresting five leaders of the Keelathooval village and executing them.
More recently, in 2020, P Jeyaraj and J Bennix, a father and son duo, died due to custodial torture in Sathankulam near Thoothukudi. Protests led by the Tamil Nadu Traders Association (TNTA) flared everywhere.
Jeyaraj had reportedly commented on a police patrol team’s insistence on closing shops early due to the lockdown. When the police caught wind, they took him into custody and so followed his son. If indeed allegations of lockdown violation proved true in court, Jeyram would’ve received a three-year prison sentence.
Instead, the police personnel beat up the father and son for hours and in several rounds. We won’t get into the details of the torture, but the methods were creatively brutal. Due to significant blood loss and severe internal injuries, both died in a couple of days.
The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court took suo motu cognisance and ordered an inquiry. In their report, the police argued that they beat up the duo for rolling on the ground and verbally abusing the officers. The probe found that two of the involved sub-inspectors faced similar charges from at least a dozen victims.
In the ongoing Ambasamudram case, a group of suspects involved in an ‘attempt to murder’ alleged that Balveer Singh had brutally tortured them, including breaking their teeth and crushing their testicles. In this case, too, it turns out that Singh faces accusations of extreme torture from multiple cohorts of victims.
While Balveer Singh has since been suspended, the opposition and human rights groups raise questions over whether the state has done enough to curtail police violence.
VIEW: It’s getting there
Tata Trust’s India Justice Report (IJR) 2022 reveals that Tamil Nadu has the second-best justice delivery system across 18 large and mid-sized states in India. The state’s justice system, comprised of the police, courts, prisons, and the legal system, is robust and ensures accountability and timely access to justice. The Tamil Nadu government introduced the Magizhchi scheme to bolster the mental well-being of local law enforcement institutions.
The MK Stalin-led government complied with the National Human Rights Commission’s recommendations to frame a compensation policy for victims of police violence. Last month, it increased the compensation given to victims of permanent incapacitation and death caused by police personnel or prison officials from ₹5 lakh to ₹7.5 lakh. For victims of partial incapacitation, the compensation has been increased from ₹1 lakh to ₹3 lakh.
In cases of violence, the incumbent government has been quick to act. In the ongoing case, the state announced the suspension of the alleged assailants and those who didn’t directly participate but didn’t stop it either. Three inspectors of police, one sub-inspector, and two constables are in the vacancy reserve. Immediately after the Jeyaraj case, the government revoked the Friends of Police initiative.
COUNTERVIEW: It’s selective accountability
In the IJR 2022 survey, while Tamil Nadu ranks the highest on prison and court indices, it doesn’t perform so well on the policing front. Other data suggests that between 2017 and 2021, the state conducted only 39 enquiries into fatalities due to police custody. What’s worse is that none of the accused was convicted. Even in the 2020 Jeyaraj case, the state demonstrated selective accountability by merely revoking the Friends of Police program.
In the current case, a high-ranking revenue official said that while there may be suspensions, the administration will steer clear of any criminal charges. It’s recently come to light that to ensure that officers retain their jobs, there have been several attempts to pressure victims into not pressing charges. Two have already withdrawn their complaints. Suspension of police officers might be one step, but their impunity from penalisation highlights the state’s poor accountability for victims of custodial violence.
The disproportionate detention of the so-called lower castes in the state’s police headquarters is worrisome. Scheduled Castes (SC) formed 37% of the detainees in 2021, while the community only represented 20% of the state’s total population. Put simply, the Scheduled Castes are more likely to face custodial violence than other castes. Experts have argued that in India, the police are more likely to detain and torture people based on their social identity. There’s a clear gap in direct action against such systemic issues.
- Murder in Mudukulathur – LeftWord
- Justice for Jayaraj and Bennix: Timeline of two shocking custodial deaths in TN – The News Minute
- How Tamil Nadu Police’s brutal act of revenge claimed lives of a father and son – The Indian Express
- Three police inspectors, one sub inspector placed in vacancy reserve – The Hindu
- ASP Balveer Singh tortured minors: Victims tell TNM they were beaten, teeth grinded – The News Minute
- As Tamil Nadu probes custodial torture by IPS officer, victims say pressure to retract – The Indian Express
- Phantoms in the police brain – DTnext
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Tamil Nadu government is doing enough to remedy police violence.
b) The Tamil Nadu government is not doing enough to remedy police violence.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Now That We Live in a Post-Truth World, Is It Already Too Late?
For the Left:
Ram Navami Violence and the Idea of ‘Muslim Areas’: Running with Liberal Hindus and Hunting with Radical Islamists
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Daughters to now hold land on par with sons (Himachal Pradesh) – The Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Property Holdings (Amendment) Bill, 2023, aims to eliminate gender disparities by allowing the oldest adult daughter in a household to keep the property as a “separate unit.” Until now, the legislation allowed the oldest adult son, recognised as a “separate unit,” to own an extra 150 bighas, bringing the total acceptable maximum for a family to 300 bighas. The Bill, which aims to modify Sections 3, 4, and 5 of the HP Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1972, will become law once the President signs it.
Why it matters: The property held by any family in excess of the permissible limit (of 300 bighas) was vested in the government under this Act. Families without a son were the worst impacted by the Act’s gender bias, as the oldest adult daughter was not allowed to retain any land, leaving the family with only 150 bighas after 1972. Once the Amendment is incorporated into the Act, families with one or more girls will be able to obtain an extra 150 bighas in the name of the eldest adult daughter, putting them on par with families with an adult son.
Indian School of Business starts blockchain lab (Telangana) – On Tuesday, DLabs Incubator Association (DLabs) at the Indian School of Business (ISB) inaugurated a world-class Blockchain Impact Lab at ISB’s Hyderabad campus in partnership with S&P Global. The two organisations have joined forces to handle a critical need to support and foster Blockchain-related innovations. The lab, which will be outfitted with best-in-class technology, will serve as a centre for the creation and spread of knowledge about blockchain and its effect on society.
Why it matters: The cutting-edge facility includes an Ethereum Virtual Machine, Hyperledger Fabric, and Multi-chain settings. It presently has four servers, which is enough for any type of use case testing. Students can access the computer from any location, enabling the technology to be used in a variety of settings. The remote setup will also enable bigger groups of partners from outside the ISB ecosystems to profit from the lab’s training. Blockchain technology has been making tremendous waves around the globe for a long time now, and professionally educating and creating an environment of research will greatly benefit the students.
Bihar home to 20 most polluted cities in the East (Bihar) – Cities in India’s eastern states — Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha — are increasingly falling victim to toxic particulate pollution during the winter months, and the problem is quickly spreading to the region’s smaller cities and towns, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in its latest assessment released on Tuesday. Bihar was the most polluted state in the east in terms of pure content, with an average PM2.5 level of 134 micrograms per cubic meter (g/m3).
Why it matters: The CSE observed that air quality in the country deteriorated last winter (2022-23), with the eastern states having the most polluted season since 2019-20. Patna had the greatest rise in winter pollution among major cities during the 2022-23 season, while pollution levels in Bihar’s smaller towns were the worst. In fact, Bihar is home to the top 20 most polluted towns in East India. This is a very alarming finding. The fact that Bihar does not have many industries and yet faces such levels of pollution showcases that these small towns have other major contributors to pollution that need to be curbed.
Government set to buy Air India building (Maharashtra) – The Maharashtra government plans to purchase the famous Air India (AI) structure at Nariman Point and convert it into an extension of Mantralaya. The building’s owner, AI Assets Holding Ltd, had given ‘in principle’ consent to the last state offer of ₹1,600 crore, according to a cabinet member. The state, on the other hand, clarified that it would finish the transaction only if the Centre vacated all buildings and gave over full possession.
Why it matters: Last year, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met with Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and persuaded him to grant the Maharashtra government priority in its effort to sell the famous Air India facility at Nariman Point. In addition to the state, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was said to be interested in the building. Justifying the stand of the government for making this push, Fadnavis said that the building could save a lot of rent the state government currently has to bear.
How Sikkim became a fully organic farming state (Sikkim) – Sikkim, a 300-year-old monarchy and trading post for Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, became the Indian Union’s newest state in 1975. By then, the Green Revolution had established itself firmly in the national agricultural environment. This was against Sikkim’s and the rest of the region’s long-standing, sustainable farming methods. Pawan Kumar Chamling, a farmer-turned-chief minister, issued an audacious resolution in the state legislature in February 2003: to convert Sikkim into a completely organic farming state.
Why it matters: Sikkim became India’s first completely organic state on December 31, 2015. The move also had fiscal gains, given the increasing worldwide preference for healthy food. Chamling served as the state’s chief minister for 25 years. He possessed the political clout to head Sikkim’s organic movement from the front lines. A brave removal of chemical fertiliser subsidies was a good place to start. Instead, incentives were provided to encourage the building of remote composting pits. The 13-year-long journey showcases what grit and determination, combined with goodwill and political power, can achieve.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
1 – Kerala secures the number 1 spot in the GI tag list in FY 2022-23.