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“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

– The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“On the night of Nov. 29-30, I was driven to the Lingapur police camp nearby … here I was questioned by 15 police officers … One of whom trod on my hands with hobnailed boots while the others kept beating me from all sides …then I was forced to ‘eat a Hyderabadi goli …it consisted of a lathi the size of a man’s arm and liberally plastered with chilly powder …I was stripped naked and the lathi pushed slowly up my anus …I remained unconscious for 8 hours …I was taken to the Lakshatipet lock-up where one of my hands was tied to the cell window … I was forced to remain in this position neither able to sit nor sleep properly for fifteen days….”

– Hirman Laxman Pagar, suspected 21-year-old Naxalite arrested on Nov. 4, 1976 by the Andhra Pradesh Police.

“Some women prisoners taken to the Lal Bazaar police station in Calcutta … were stripped naked, burned on all parts of the body and in some cases iron rulers were inserted into the vagina and rectum … there are also allegations that a women suspect was subjected to continuous raping by hardened criminals on the specific orders of the police inside the interrogation room.”

– Allegations contained in a report compiled by the Akhil Banga Manila Samiti – a non-political voluntary organization.

Torture. It is one of the most gruesome attack done on the prisoners in India. Torture is defined as the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something. Use of Torture is not differentiated in prisons as to whether the prisoners is an undertrial or convicted, young or old, rich or poor. Torture is used as a vital weapon by the Police Administration in order to seek the truth from an accused person. This is substantiated by various reports and researches. Question arises – Is use of Torture necessary? Who decides ‘how much’ torture should be inflicted in order to seek the truth? Are there any accounts or records of the number of blows inflicted on a person to seek the truth?

Torture is inflicted in various ways- by regularly and routinely beating the prisoners black and blue with punches and kicks. They are hit with batons, iron bars, gun butts, and pieces of wood or other objects, subjected to electric shocks, whipped with wire, bamboo, rope or belts. Some are nearly suffocated with pieces of plastic, or have their feet crushed under wooden or iron bars. For many torture includes rape or other sexual abuse. There is also methods of psychological torture used such as prolonged unlawful detention, verbal intimidation and death threats, mock executions and physical assaults or threats against relatives of victims.

It is argued that the use of torture is to seek information and the truth in order to punish the culprits. But more than this it is to instil the fear of terror in their minds. It is a way of giving a message that any wrong or any deviation from the rules and norms of the prisons will call for dreadful consequences. Besides it has been observed that the society also does not brother about the prisoner. The prevailing attitude amongst the society is that an accused person should definitely be punished, deprived off all the rights and no mercy should be showed towards them, regardless of evidence and law.

Question arises-Have the authorities or the society figured out the consequences of such their acts and behaviour towards the prisoners? Have they acknowledged the various rights of the prisoner they violate? Reports depict that due to the various tortures the prisoners are left traumatized, ashamed and frightened. They are reluctant to talk about their experience, or lay complaints against the administration as they fear revenge. The social stigma affects not only the prisoner but also his/ her family members. They too have to suffer the disgrace and humiliation. In fact in the cases of acquittal it has been found that they cannot find jobs as none would hire a person once accused of a crime. Thus all this leads the prisoner to face not only the physical torture but also mental torture. This affects them to such an extent that it leads them to depression, drastic change in their behaviour, becoming aggressive in nature, and also becoming suicidal. This certainly calls for attention.

Prisons are a place where prisoners should be reformed keeping in mind the Reformative Theory. It should not be a place where they could be tortured and traumatized and deprived of their rights of being “Human being”. Agreed with the fact that prisoners will not easily give answers to the questions during interrogations and therefore a bit of authority and supremacy needs to be there. But is torture necessary and the only way of dealing? Who decides the credibility of the information collected out of such torture? Importantly, will the jail authorities take the responsibility of torturing and beating the prisoner black and blue just as they take when they solve a case? Of course not. They will deny such acts. One can definitely not forget the case of Manjula Shetye which raised concerns about the working of jail authorities and life inside the jails.

Torture, as one of the gravest crimes possible, is protected by a wall of silence and denial. This leads to helplessness, frustration and psychological disorders. Breaking this silence, and giving prisoners victim of such torture a voice, is a necessary first step towards reducing the use of torture. It is important that the concerned authorities acknowledge the various form of tortures and violations inflicted upon the prisoners. Laws needs to be amended whereby punishment is prescribed for inflicting torture on the prisoners. Visits should be conducted and reports be submitted in every 15 days. It is time the judiciary and the legislative authorities recognize and acknowledge the physical as well as the mental torture faced by the prisoners.

By Pinny Phatak


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