Police Brutality: A tale of systemic violence and oppression
25th May 2020: George Floyd lost his life to police brutality in Minneapolis, United States. This led to a series of protests, a heavy outpouring of messages of solidarity, and created distress with the sad state of affairs.
22nd June 2020: Jayaraj and Bennicks in the state of Tamilnadu in Tuticorin district were subjected to sodomy, third-degree torture where police took turns to trash the father-son duo for a petty crime of keeping their mobile shop open 15 minutes after the permitted time.
9th June 2020: Protesters gather in Nairobi, Kenya against the judicial killing of 15 people since the coronavirus lockdown (15th March). There have been reports of 31 people sustaining severe injuries due to police brutality. Then Pakistan, Brazil, Philippines, the list goes on.
One is perturbed by the ‘widespread’ and ‘global nature’ of these heinous acts, which is police brutality. Is it localized to a particular area? No, but there are some commonalities that all these separate yet interconnected incidents share. This is a blatant abuse of power by the Oppressor, and the oppressed in most cases belong to a racially, ethnically, economically disadvantageous group. Our discourse on police brutality, whether in India or outside, can’t be completed without examining the communal and economic angles.
Both Jayaraj and Bennicks belong to a higher caste, but their economic status makes them vulnerable to police torture, without the fear of repercussions by their criminals. Had it been a large industrialist, violating the lockdown restrictions there wouldn’t have been such an unfortunate incident.
The owners of a small mobile accessories shop were found to be keeping their shop open beyond the permitted hours. Jayaraj was rounded up by the police and taken into custody. Bennick’s, his son, who was nearby, saw this with his friends and rushed to the nearest police station. There he witnessed his father getting beaten up ruthlessly by the police. When he questioned this, he too was taken into custody for interrogation, and his friends were asked to leave.
As per several eyewitnesses, reported by the Federal, excruciating cries of the duo could be heard in 500 meters of distance throughout the night. The next day when they were taken to hospital, their clothes were torn, and injuries bloodied their bodies. Rectal bleeding caused them to change clothes several times. Even though their state was disheveled, the hospital gave them a physically fit report due to police pressure.
Furthermore, they were taken to the magistrate where the police kept threatening them, which prevented them from speaking for themselves. Finally, they were remanded and taken to a sub-jail where they succumbed to their injuries on 22nd June and 23rd June respectively.
Massive outrage on social media, as well as support from high profile Bollywood celebrities, outpoured. The Madras High court took suo-moto cognizance of the matter. A probe has been set up to inquire, and 25 lakhs have been given as compensation to the victim’s family.
And all this was done to satisfy the protestors. The perpetrators of the crime have been merely suspended. Apart from some transfers, no severe action has been taken yet. This is no justice; it is merely a transfer of tyranny from one place to another.
The police have to be held accountable, their abuse of power needs to be punished, and reform for the whole system of police is required in order to decrease the instances of police brutality in the future. Just in 2019, 1731 people died of police brutality, as reported by an independent study by a broad of NGO’s. Worldwide, the instances of Police Brutality have been harrowing. These are just reported Statistics, so many of them are brushed off as natural deaths or covered by using the same influence and power, which causes these deaths in the first place.
Worldwide police officials and law enforcement are taking matters of law in their own hands. They have no right to do so when they are barely trained in law for a few months when mind you a lawyer spends 3-5 years and has to pass the Bar exam to show his proficiency in law.
Similarly, our movies and culture not only supports police brutality but glorifies it, leading to its normalization across the world. Movies like Singham and Dabang, with cops who consider themselves to be dispensaries of their own brand of justice, come to mind. When leaders in high position vow to protect the small, petty functionaries with half baked information about the law, then further add up to the legal protection that police have.
Police brutality is rooted in the mentality of the perpetrators of it, believing they are beyond law and justice, that they aren’t in a position of servitude but that of unquestionable authority. Their atrocities also show the natural bias systemic of society we are a part of which for years has made certain groups more vulnerable to crimes. Dalits, Transgenders, racial minorities, migrant workers all their suffering in an interplay of power and oppression.