December 20, 2012
The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the State government take steps to ensure that inhuman torture and harassment of adivasis by the police of Khammam district is stopped. The ill-treatment is particularly severe in habitations located in mandals bordering Chattisgarh.
It was plainly evident to a five-member HRF fact-finding team that visited several villages in Pega and Edugurallapalli panchayats of Chinthur mandal on Saturday that adivasi residents are living in a state of fear because of constant persecution by the police. In the course of what the police term “investigation of crime by the Maoists”, it has become routine for the police to hold these adivasis in illegal custody beyond the permissible 24-hour limit, often for weeks on end and subject them to beatings. It was fear of such torture that led an adivasi Sode Mantri (22) of Lankapalli village in Edugurallapalli panchayat to attempt suicide by slitting his throat with a blade in the Edugurallapalli police outpost on December 1. Fortunately, he survived and is recovering at a hospital in Khammam. He was picked up along with four other your men – Vanjam Jitender, Sode Ungaiah, Kovasi Ungaiah and Kovasi Raju — from Lankapalli on November 30. Raju was let off after two weeks on December 14, but the other three are still being held in illegal custody by the Chintur police. Their family members have not been able to even meet them till date. We demand that they be produced before a magistrate immediately and let off without being implicated in any false case.
On every occasion that the Maoists injure or kill anyone in the area, indulge in property destruction or even put up posters or banners, the police let lose a virtual reign of terror. It is as if any act of violence or propaganda by the Maoists is signal for the police to indulge in illegalities. Adivasis are picked up from the fields, villages and weekly shanties, held in illegal custody, abused, beaten up and some of them booked in false cases, often under the undemocratic and draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Bail is difficult to obtain and their families, most of who are poor, undergo great hardship as a result.
The adivasis are also endlessly harassed by way of “bind-over” proceedings. Instead of adhering to the procedure laid out in CrPC 107 in respect of the “bind-over” process, the police are making a mockery of the provisions in that Section. They are simply herding adivasis by the dozens to the police stations, making them affix their thumb impressions on paper and subsequently harassing them. These adivasis, most of them youth in their early twenties, are asked to report every week at the police station. They are made to sit for several hours, at times even overnight, made to clean utensils, clean up the premises and do various chores for the police. Several minor boys are also being subjected to this routine. Shockingly, in some villages like Pavurlanka and Lankapalli, the adivasis have been going in batches to the local police station once a week since the past four years!
The situation is no better in mandals like Dummugudem, Cherla, Venkatapuram and Wajedu. We recall that the police have been inflicting terrible violence on adivasis in their custody, particularly in the Venkatapuram area. We were shocked to learn that several adivasis have been subjected to third-degree torture like being administered electric shocks and brutal beatings on the hands and legs with sticks. Adivasis who have suffered this torture find it difficult to resume normal life. They are rendered unfit to carry out farm labour work or collecting bamboo from the forest because of their battered physical condition.
HRF feels this is a deplorable state of affairs. The police do have the task of prevention and investigation of crime but they must do so fully respecting people’s rights and must function within the ambit of the law, not overstep it and behave arbitrarily. The acts of the police in the border mandals has led to an unacceptable violation of right to life and liberty.
HRF demands that a high-level investigation be ordered into these illegalities being committed by the police. Those responsible for torturing adivasis must be charged and criminally prosecuted. It is clear that the police have been indulging in torture of those in their custody because they enjoy immunity from prosecution. We urge the government to seriously address the issue of torture by law enforcement personnel.
VS Krishna, SK Khadar Babu
(HRF State general secretary) (HRF Khammam district president)