ASIA: The Societal Importance of the elimination of torture and ill treatment in the South Asian context 

A summary of a presentation made to the Vigil India Movement, Bangalore by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Each generation has its own challenges. Not long ago the great challenge was to dispel the foreign invader and to claim our land as our own. Today we face a far different challenge, which is, to become our own. Today’s challenge is a societal one. We are call upon to develop our own collective will for development of societal arrangements within which each individual can claim that his or her society as in reality their own, that in a basic sense we belong to each other. That in some basic sense we care for each other.

This sense of belonging cannot just be sentimental or merely be ideological. It has to be practical in some basic sense real. This call is for among other things making arrangements for our security. Which is effective and at the same time normal. Abnormal pre-occupation for security is a disease. Such abnormal arrangements divide more than unite create distrust, create fear instead of love. To live in fear of each other is as worst as it can get.

For South Asia in making arrangements for societal care and societal peace, one major institution that needs our attention is our police. Re- arrangement of our police in a way that it is brought to be capable of functioning within the boundaries of legality, rationality and proportionality is the basic challenge we face at least for decade or two more. And if we are capable of achieving this, we will reach manifold benefits, such as less violence, less corruption and greater respect for the principle of equality. We are all fond of calling our times as the age in which we will become capable of achieving greater equality for our women folk. This is the great dream of present times and the aspiration of those who represent the best aspects of our humanity.

This great goal is intertwined with the re-arrangement that we need to make in our policing. Two things; strangely enough, are inseparable in our historical context.

It is in this wider view that we have to looking to the problems of the wide spread practice of torture at our police stations. In South Asia we still have torture based policing. There is even a belief, that policing without torture is an impossible. We need to prove that this is a false belief, not just by verbal condemnations of torture but by making practical arrangements to displace it.

One time one of India’s great minds Siri Narayana Guru talked about humanizing the Brahmins. Today we need to humanize our police. We need to remove the idea that policing can only be done with the fists and wooden poles and that it can be done with the brains and with the human spirit.

In doing this we need to look at torture not merely from a legal point of view but also from a psychological point of view. Today modern psychology teaches us about trauma, post stress disorder, post traumatic disorder and similar psychological problems and mental disorders caused by torture. Those who have associated with the victims of such trauma and other disorders know what this does to the individual human being and also what it does to the families. The UN CAT committee regards as victims of torture not only direct victims but also their families and loved ones.

There is today in Asia new realization of the need to overcome torture. We today have more knowledge about torture as practiced in all the countries of Asia due to documentation done by many human rights organizations. There are many individuals and organisation committed to eradication of torture and helping the victims of torture. It is a growing movement.

I very much hope that the Vigil India movement will join this effort and rekindle the spirit of its greater founder and his colleagues who realized the place of human rights in humanizing Asia.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-043-2011
Countries : Asia, India,
Issues : Caste-based discrimination, Inhuman & degrading treatment, Torture,