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INDIA: Police assault a tribal woman in Kerala

October 18, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-209-2011



18 October 2011
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INDIA: Police assault a tribal woman in Kerala

ISSUES: Torture; discrimination; impunity
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Nervazhi, a human rights organisation working in Kerala, concerning the case of police assault upon a tribal woman. It is reported that Mrs Paru, aged 65 years went to the Malakkapara Police Station concerning a complaint Paru had filed at the station of theft at her home. The case was settled at the police station and the suspect admitted the crime and handed over the stolen articles from Paru's house at the station. However, the Assistant Sub Inspector of Police caned Paru inside the police station in which Paru suffered injuries. The case when brought to the attention of the State Legislative Assembly, caused serious debates about the manner in which the state police behave and the impunity the force enjoy for the atrocities they commit.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The victim in the case, Paru, is the member of a tribal community living near Sholayar Power House, near Peringalkuthu in Thrissur district, Kerala state. Since the death of her husband, Neshamani, Paru lives alone. Paru receives a pension of Rs. 6000 since the death of her husband. On 4 October, Paru had been to the nearest town, Chalakkudi, to collect pension from the bank. On the way back home she had purchased a mobile telephone, a DVD and a silver anklet for her granddaughter from the pension money and Paru had Rs. 2500 with her. Paru reached home at about 4pm.

On the same day night, Subish, a neighbour had come to Paru's house to watch television. Paru had slept by the time Subish left. At sometime in the night when Paru woke up she saw that the cupboard in which Paru had kept the new telephone and the balance money is open. Soon Paru realised that the money and the telephone had been stolen from the cupboard. Paru immediately went to the house where Subish's elder brother Vinish stays. However Subish was not there.

On 6 October, Paru went to Malakkapara Police Station and lodged a complaint. A young police constable who was at the station recorded Paru's complaint and promised Paru that when the Assistant Sub-Inspector arrives, he will seek permission from the officer to investigate the complaint. Paru later received information that she should present herself in the morning at the Malakkapara Police Station on 10 October. Accordingly, Paru went to the police station accompanied by her son-in-law Bagyaraj and nephew Sudhir.

At the police station, Paru met Subish, Vinish, elder sister Pushpa and her husband Mani and their son-in-law Manikandan. At the police station, Assistant Sub Inspector Mr Joy was present and in his presence, Subish admitted that he had taken the money and the telephone. Subish returned the telephone, and said that he would return the money soon. Then Paru and Subish shook hands and decided to leave the station.

However when Paru shook hands with Subish, Mani and Manikandan said that instead of shaking hands, the police should cane Paru. Hearing this the Assistant Sub Inspector Joy grabbed a cane and hit Paru on her right thigh. Then the officer pulled Paru holding her right hand and forced her on to the floor. Then the officer caned Paru on her foot until it started bleeding. Those who accompanied Paru could do nothing since they were afraid of the officer. Paru soon lost became unconscious and the officer stopped canning Paru. Paru's relatives carried Paru out from the police station and sprayed water on her face for her to regain consciousness. Then the officer came out and ordered that Paru should sign a register kept at the police station. Due to fear Paru signed the register, in which it was written that the case between Paru and Subish was compromised and thus Paru has no further complaints.

Paru and her relatives returned home. However, once at home, the pain on Paru's legs increased and Paru soon became unable to walk. On 12 October Paru went to Chalakkudi and was admitted at the Chalakkudi Thaluk Hospital for treatment. Paru is still at the hospital.

The incident was brought to the notice of the state legislative assembly upon which there was a big debate between the government and the opposition. The government has promised that the incident would be investigated. However, Nervazhi and the AHRC suspects that there would not be any proper investigation in the case nor would the officer be punished.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities listed below asking for their urgent intervention in this case. The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Police torture of a tribal woman must be investigated

Name of victim: Mrs Paru, aged 65 years, wife of Neshamani, residing at Girijan Colony, near Sholayar Power House, Peringalkuthu post, Chalakudi, Thrissur district, Kerala state
Name of alleged perpetrator: Mr Joy, Assistant Sub Inspector of Police, Malakkapara Police Station, Malakkapara post, Thrissur district
Date of incident: 10 October 2011
Place of incident: Malakkapara Police Station, Malakkapara post, Thrissur district

I am writing to express my concern regarding the case of tribal woman Paru who was tortured at Malakkapara Police Station by the Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Mr Joy.

I am informed that the victim in the case, Paru, is the member of a tribal community living near Sholayar Power House, near Peringalkuthu in Thrissur district, Kerala state. Since the death of her husband, Neshamani, Paru lives alone. Paru receives a pension of Rs. 6000 since the death of her husband. On 4 October, Paru had been to the nearest town, Chalakkudi, to collect pension from the bank. On the way back home she had purchased a mobile telephone, a DVD and a silver anklet for her granddaughter from the pension money and Paru had Rs. 2500 with her. Paru reached home at about 4pm.

On the same day night, Subish, a neighbour had come to Paru's house to watch television. Paru had slept by the time Subish left. At sometime in the night when Paru woke up she saw that the cupboard in which Paru had kept the new telephone and the balance money is open. Soon Paru realised that the money and the telephone had been stolen from the cupboard. Paru immediately went to the house where Subish's elder brother Vinish stays. However, Subish was not there.

On 6 October, Paru went to Malakkapara Police Station and lodged a complaint. A young police constable who was at the station recorded Paru's complaint and promised Paru that when the Assistant Sub-Inspector arrives, he will seek permission from the officer to investigate the complaint. Paru later received information that she should present herself in the morning at the Malakkapara Police Station on 10 October. Accordingly, Paru went to the police station accompanied by her son-in-law Bagyaraj and nephew Sudhir.

At the police station, Paru met Subish, Vinish, elder sister Pushpa and her husband Mani and their son-in-law Manikandan. At the police station, Assistant Sub Inspector Mr Joy was present and in his presence, Subish admitted that he had taken the money and the telephone. Subish returned the telephone, and said that he would return the money soon. Then Paru and Subish shook hands and decided to leave the station.

However when Paru shook hands with Subish, Mani and Manikandan said that instead of shaking hands, the police should cane Paru. Hearing this the Assistant Sub Inspector Joy grabbed a cane and hit Paru on her right thigh. Then the officer pulled Paru holding her right hand and forced her on to the floor. Then the officer caned Paru on her foot until it started bleeding. Those who accompanied Paru could do nothing since they were afraid of the officer. Paru soon lost became unconscious and the officer stopped canning Paru. Paru's relatives carried Paru out from the police station and sprayed water on her face for her to regain consciousness. Then the officer came out and ordered that Paru should sign a register kept at the police station. Due to fear Paru signed the register, in which it was written that the case between Paru and Subish was compromised and thus Paru has no further complaints.

Paru and her relatives returned home. However, once at home, the pain on Paru's legs increased and Paru soon became unable to walk. On 12 October Paru went to Chalakkudi and was admitted at the Chalakkudi Thaluk Hospital for treatment. Paru is still at the hospital.

I am informed that the incident was brought to the notice of the state legislative assembly upon which there was a big debate between the government and the opposition. The government has promised that the incident would be investigated. I am also informed that the Nervazhi and the AHRC suspects that there would not be any proper investigation in the case nor would the officer be punished.

I therefore urge you to take the following actions in the case:

1. That the case of torture investigated by the police;
2. The police record the statement of the victim and witnesses, if any, to the incident;
3. Should the inquiry and the complaint filed by the victim provide adequate information about the breach of law by the officer, immediate actions be taken against the officer involved in the case;
5. The victims provided immediate protection and compensation.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Chief Justice, High Court of Kerala
Through the office of the Registrar
Kerala High Court
Kochi, Kerala
INDIA
FAX: +91 484 2391720

2. Mr Oommen Chandy
Chief Minister
Government of Kerala
Room No. 141, Third Floor, North Block
Govt. Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram - 695 001
INDIA
Fax: +91 471 2333489
E-mail: chiefminister@kerala.gov.in

3. Ms P K Jayalakshmi
Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes
Government of Kerala
Room No. 647, Second Floor
South Block, Govt. Secretariat
Thiruvananthapuram- 695 003, Kerala
INDIA
Fax: + 91 471 2333775
E-mail: minister-wst-ya@kerala.gov.in

4. Mr V S Achuthanandan
Honorable Leader of Opposition
Cantonment House Vikas Bhavan P.O.
Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
INDIA
Fax: + 91 471 2315625
Email: oppositionleader@kerala.gov.in

5. Mr Jacob Punnoose (IPS)
Director General of Police
Government of Kerala
Police Head Quarters
Thiruvanandapuram, Kerala
INDIA
Fax: +91 471 2726560


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-209-2011
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.