Human Rights Watch Labels Indian Police Anachronistic, Abusive Force



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.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs