Posts Tagged ‘state violence’

This week, I was told to do an encounter

August 12, 2009

[Excepts from a HRW report on the Indian Police; emphases mine]

This week, I was told to do an ‘encounter,’” a police officer we will call Officer Singh told Human Rights Watch in January 2009. He was referring to the practice of taking into custody and extrajudicially executing an individual, then claiming that the victim died after initiating a shoot-out with police. “I am looking for my target,” he said. “I will eliminate him.”

Working in Uttar Pradesh, Officer Singh is the kind of police officer who should be in prison for misusing his authority. Instead he is protected by his superiors. It is in this way that impunity continues to thrive in India—and the reputation of the police continues to slide.

But as we spoke to Officer Singh, we heard about other aspects of the reality of policing in India. Officer Singh said he had hardly a day off since he began working as a sub-inspector, or investigating officer, for the Uttar Pradesh police ten years ago. “I’ve slept ten hours in the last three days. How is a person who hasn’t slept in three days supposed to behave properly?” he asked. “The pressure cooker will burst.”

Officer Singh described hours crammed with too many duties: patrolling events, escorting VIPs, investigating crime, and, he added without hesitation, fabricating police records. He said he was working on a murder case but had at best a few hours at night to devote to solving it. “I sent evidence to the forensic lab five months ago, but the case is still pending,” he said. Nonetheless, he said he was under tremendous pressure from superiors to solve the case, or face suspension. He admitted that in the past, in similar straits, he had beaten suspects to elicit confessions–that’s what his superiors expected of him. “It is presumed that I’m doing it,” he told Human Rights Watch. “It’s done before them. Sometimes they are doing it.”

Despite his willingness to beat people he determines are criminals—and he made it clear that he had beaten many—Officer Singh said he did not initially intend to be a dishonest and abusive crime fighter. “No one is born corrupt. It’s a tailor-made system: if you’re not corrupt, you won’t survive.”