Earlier this week, the photograph of a group of men went viral on social media. They had all been stripped down to their underwear and were standing against a wall, their hands clasped in front of them. The photograph was taken in the Kotwali Police Station in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district.
Sidhi SP Mukesh Shrivastava later informed the press that Neeraj Kunder, a theatre artist, had been arrested on April 2, in connection with a case related to defamation of a BJP MLA and his family. The BJP MLA had filed a case at the Kotwali Police Station on March 16, following which the police sought details on the relevant posts from Facebook. Kunder was arrested after police found links to him during the course of the probe. Later, a group of around 40 men gheraoed the police station to oppose Kunder’s arrest and began raising slogans. It was then that they were held under preventive detention. Among the people who surrounded the police station were Kunder’s friends and relatives, and a YouTuber. It was in this context that they were arrested under preventive detention, the police said.
However, why they were stripped off their clothes and by whom is still under investigation.
This is one in a series of cases where excesses were committed by the police and despite uproar, no real, deterrent action was taken against the men in uniform. In this particular case, the police has come up with the bizarre theory that the clothes of the concerned people were removed to prevent them from committing suicide.
In another case of police brutality, mobile shop owner Bennix, 31, and his 60-year-old father Jeyaraj were taken to the Sathankulam police station in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district on June 19, 2020 over an argument that Jeyaraj had with a policeman. In a nightmarish scenario, the father-son duo was then beaten up mercilessly by scores of policemen who took turns at doing so; they succumbed a few days later to the grievous injuries thus suffered.
In March, the Lok Sabha was informed that over 2,150 deaths took place in judicial custody and 155 deaths were reported in police custody in 2021-22, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Rai informed Parliament that Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of deaths — 448 — in judicial custody in 2021-22 till February, while Maharashtra reported the highest number of deaths — 29 — in police custody during the year.
“The NHRC announced a total compensation of Rs 4.53 crore in 2021-22 in 137 cases of custodial deaths, lower than the Rs 4.88 crore compensation awarded in 161 cases in 2020-21,” Rai said in reply to a written question. “There were 2,152 cases of deaths in judicial custody in 2021-22,” he said.