The custodial death of a father and son in Thoothukudi last month has led to widespread outrage and protests around the country. The incident, which occurred soon after massive protests across the US against the death of George Floyd, has also begun a much-needed conversation on police brutality and the need for reforms in India.
A recent report by the National Campaign Against Torture said that 1,731 people died in custody in India during 2019. Custodial deaths, The Hindu pointed out in its editorial last month, often occur because many police officials still torture the victim to admit to a crime, adding, however, that “it is not uncommon, regrettably, for the police to use their power and authority to settle personal scores”.
Retired IPS officer Meeran Chadha Borwankar, who is now an author and motivational speaker, told HuffPost India in an email interview that punishing such officers “expeditiously” is the only way out.
While many commentators have been pointing out for years that there are systemicproblems with the Indian police force, Borwankar says such incidents are a result of “sadist elements” getting into uniform. She also weighed in on the calls to “defund the police” like in the US, saying this wasn’t a practical solution.
Instead she suggests steps to “demystify” the police, including offering internships to students at police stations and inducting trained social workers and counsellors.
“Let there be an end to the bamboo curtain. Change will come in police when police stations in India change,” she said in an email interview.
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