Repeated incidents of Custody deaths in Punjab have not only brought the common masses to the street against the inhuman torture techniques adopted by the police, but has also highlighted the role of law enforcing agencies in checking such heinous crime against the humanity.
The tall claims of the State government of restoration of rule of law have proved a farce with custodial crime becoming an order of the day. Policemen still consider themselves above the law. They have no fear of law or the Court. They know that they will be exonerated in the name of national security or maintenance of law and order. Their mindset is the same as it was during the earlier days of State terrorism. Their actions are the same. Rather, their authority have become more powerful with no action against their illegal actions. Under these circumstances, can any saner element boast of Punjab’s situation as peaceful?
During the dark days of State brutality in Punjab at its helm, people were less afraid of the satan than of a policeman. It was this fear and frustration, which routed the inhuman Congress government and offered an opportunity to the largest Sikh political party in the state, Shromani Akali Dal to end the Police Raj and establish rule of law. But even after four years of the so-called popular rule in the State, the situation has not changed a wee bit. When more than seventy people have lost their lives in Police custody since the Akali government came into power, it would be great folly to call it a State ruled by law? Where the government is under bounden duty to protect the life and liberty of every citizen, loss of even a single life in Police Custody certainly casts a blur on the government, lest every organ of justice delivery system should bow down in shame. The moot question that arises is that how the situation has been mis-handled that it has became so serious that every person is feeling insecure and prone to police brutality? Is it not a failure of the government where the police force has turned man-eater and the courts and the elected representatives of the people have closed its eyes and ears? The answer to all these questions must be emphatically “betrayal of the oath”.
It is an abysmal state of affairs in Punjab. Not only the government has failed to check its brutal force, but the judiciary or the human rights agencies have miserably failed to show its existence. It seems to be a matter of the past now that the judges were moved on reading the heart rending news of torture deaths in the morning day newspaper and took suo-moto cognizance of the matter. They also do not feel concerned today on learning that innocent people are being killed like animals. One wonders if they would feel disturbed on hearing the wails of torture victims in the Police stations in Punjab. Every Court granting police remand of a suspect fully knows that he is going to be given inhuman third degree treatment. It is their folly to believe that only third degree treatment could extract the truth from the suspect. It is no secret that the first thing a policeman does with the suspect in police remand is to give good bashing and then tell his fault. The title page of this book clearly exhibits the mindset of the police force in the state even today.
The study of recent cases of people being killed in Police custody and in the prisons have given a clear message that whosoever is taken into custody by police is sure to loose his life, lest he is too hard to bear the police torture, no matter, whether he is innocent or too poor to bribe the policemen. Punjab Police, known for its fake encounters, custodial deaths and other heinous crimes, received a big blow when the encounter theory of killing a youth, Kashmir
Singh of Pandori Rukman in Hoshiarpur district on 14th March, 1997 came out to be a cold blooded murder. Even the Sessions Court, Hoshiarpur convicted the police party and sentenced them to life imprisonment for the offence of murder. National Human Rights Commission, also awarded a compensation of Rupees five lacs to the next of kin of the deceased. Similarly, the tale of torture methods described by the brother of Devinder Singh alias Bhola, a youth of village Hassanpur in Ropar district who was tortured to death on September 18, 1999 shook the state with grief. The accused policemen have recently been sentenced to life imprisonment for the custodial death. Many victims of police brutality have even gone un-noticed. What was the fault of Iqbal Singh of Jaitu in Faridkot when he was picked up by the Muktsar police on January 5,2001 and was so badly tortured that he died in the lock-up? But the police is so hardened liar that it claimed that the victim had committed suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom of the lock-up. Similar story was cooked up by the Police in the case of Surinder Pal who died in Police Station Dasuya in District Hoshiarpur on 7th January, 2001. The same day Avtar Singh, a youth of Ludhiana was shot dead by a militant turned Police Inspector Gurmeet Singh Pinky in Ludhiana because he objected to their drinking session at a public place. Is the life of these victims so valueless that the State government or the Police authorities could not afford to pay ex-gratia compensation to the next of the kin of the deceased killed by the Policemen ? The tragedy does not end here. Exactly a month later in 2001, Jaspal Singh, a 17 year old Dalit youth of Village Saheri in District Ropar fell to the torture methods of Punjab police and died in Police Station Morinda on 7th February, 2001. To add insult to the injury, every organ of administration including the civil and police administration in the district tried their level best to save their policemen who were responsible for the tragic death. The courts also showed little concern at this dastardly act. Another dalit youth, Madan Lal of Kapurthala was tortured to death in Police Station Kapurthala on 15th February, 2001.
One thing quite similar in all these incidents was that the police authorities and district administration failed to take necessary action against the guilty persons, unless the masses came to the street and protested by laying road blockade, dharna and even gherao the police station. In other words, the public outcries and street protests played an important role for forcing the authorities to take strict action against the erring cops.