News

Human Rights Watch Labels Indian Police Anachronistic, Abusive Force

Multimedia

Audio

A new report by Human Rights Watch says India is modernizing rapidly, but that its police forces have failed to evolve from the repressive forces designed by colonial rulers.  It has called on the government to transform the institution from one that is anachronistic and abusive into one that promotes the rule of law.  

Human Rights Watch says it has compiled the new report not just by talking to victims of police abuse, but to police officers, as well, to see what leads to an abusive pattern of behavior on their part. 

The human rights abuses which the report investigates have been documented in the past. The report says the most pressing are the police failure to register crimes, arrests on false charges and illegal detention, torture to elicit confessions, and extrajudicial killings.

Naureen Shah at the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch says a police culture where abuse is an institutional practice has been handed down from the time when India was ruled by the British.

"They are often relying on old methods of policing," Shah said. "When they were first constituted as a colonial force in the 1800's they were taught to use repression, fear - the public's fear rather than its cooperation.  And, that is still the way they are doing policing today."

The report says this has led to an unprecedented public distrust and fear of police and to people avoiding it, fearing demands for bribes, illegal detention or torture.

The problems are aggravated by what Human Rights Watch terms the "dangerous state of disrepair" in the police force.  It says the force is "overstretched and ill equipped".  India has just one police officer for every 1,000 residents, compared to the global average of 333.  The report says police infrastructure is crumbling and decaying police stations lack vehicles, phones or computers.  The working environment for low-ranking police is often dismal.

Naureen Shah, who spent time at police stations, says constables and junior police officers are given no training or equipment for professional crime investigation techniques.

"A lot of the police we spoke to did not seem to realize or did not seem to understand that there were other ways of doing things," Shah said. "If we said 'why is it you torture so much to get a confession,' one police officer said to us, 'What do you expect me to do?  Do you expect me to sit the fellow down and ask him politely if he committed the crime?  He is not going to tell me anything. These harsh methods are necessary.'  So, there is a lack of awareness that there are other ways of doing things. "

The report also says police often face interference from state and local politicians and are routinely asked to drop charges against those with political connections.

Human Rights Watch calls on the government to increase accountability for abusive police officers and for a change in the police structure and working conditions.

Demands for police reforms have been on India's political and public agenda for many years. A 2006 Supreme Court judgment directed the government to insulate the police force from political interference, enhance its accountability and give police autonomy in staffing.  The government elected this year has promised to initiate such reforms, but similar commitments by successive governments have remained unfulfilled.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs