George Orwell once said, “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” It is this trust in these rough men that makes the police services an honourable job and those men and women worthy of being called the protectors of the humanity. The latest actions by these rough men in USA and few other American countries however present a state of affairs that calls for the public requiring protection from these very people who are responsible for their protection.
On the morning of 9th September 2020, a bystander video-showing Javier Ordóñez-a law student and father of two young boys- pinned to ground and being shot repeatedly with a stun gun by two police officers in Bogota, Colombia-went viral on social media. It can be seen in the video that Javier repeatedly appealed for his right to appear before appropriate authorities and also reminded the officers about them being filmed. The officers took no cognizance of the pleas and continued shooting him. Javier died shortly afterwards in the hospital. This incident proved to be the unpinning of the barely-held-together anger and years of pent up frustration amongst the masses over the rise in the cases of police violence and brutality. As a result of this incident, a massive protest broke out in the streets of Bogota, Colombia harbouring thousands of aggrieved Colombians seeking justice for deceased Javier.
What’s concerning is that only 24 hours into the protest, Colombia witnessed the death of at least 9 more citizens. The protest took a violent turn when the protestors began vandalising and burning the police stations and public property. The police in retaliation resorted to tear gases and open firing to contain the protest. According to the police reports, nearly 400 protesters were injured while 66 had bullet injuries. The military has also been deployed to the streets to curb the protest. Colombia’s Defence minister took to the media and apologized on behalf of the police for their actions on Friday the 11th September 2020. It was also promised that all the deaths would be promptly investigated. The two police officers implicated have been fired and face charges of abusing authority and homicide.
While this is a relatively new incident that has received global attention, it is not the first incident to have been recognised for its severity. The long overdue conversation on police brutality and the plight of those who suffered at the hands of those who were meant to protect them was put into motion with the killing of George Floyd. George, a 46-year-old black American man was killed by a police officer during an arrest for the alleged use of a counterfeit bill on 25th may 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA. The police officer was recorded in a video by a bystander while he knelt on George’s neck for a few minutes while Floyd pleaded to be set free on account of his inability to breathe. This incidence led to a huge outcry in the form of massive protests and movement across United States of America protesting over police brutality as well as racism under the name of Black Lives Matter.
While these two incidents along with many more undiscovered instances span over the western nations, our nation in no way falls back when it comes to harbouring severe cases of police brutality. A horrifying case of brutality stemmed up in Tamil Nadu when a father-son duo, 59-year-old Jayaraj and 31year old Benicks were dragged to Sathankulam police station, where they were allegedly beaten, stripped naked, and sodomized. According to eye witnesses, they were tortured for full 3 hours. They were then kept in police custody where they took their last breaths on June 22, 2020. This sickening brutality by the protectors of the humanity was shown for a meagre default of keeping a shop open beyond the permitted hours. This baffling incident has now stopped receiving media attention. In a more recent timeline, Kerala is lapping up in the protests demanding the resignation of one Kerala minister KT Jaleel in relation to the gold scam. Amidst the ongoing protest, the Kerala police retaliated with violence in the form of lathi charge to disperse the crowd. On 13 September, a photograph, showing a police officer pinning a young activist-Antony- down, by squatting over him, started circulating on social media. Many social media users expressed grief over this recreation of the unfortunate incident of George Floyd.
In India, despite numerous deaths no police officials were convicted after 2011.
All these instances are major and gross violations of human rights or even the basic right to be human and to be treated like one. These instances however, only form the tip of the iceberg which is, in no way a comforting reality. This kind of arbitrary, unjust and even bordering animalistic, brutality is supposed to be the last thing that is expected of an organisation which is held to be the guarantor of our human rights. These organisations are the protectors of law and hold the same in their hands. Hiding under the garb of this authority that the officers hold, they have overstepped the boundaries of the responsibility that a state bestows upon them, countless times. Brutality however, is not a mere overstepping of responsibilities. Rather, it is a blatant sacrilege of the law of the land which guarantees to the humans, the dignity to live with. There are countless individuals whose plight and suffering doesn’t even see the light of the day. Even those which are recognised and shown griefs upon are forgotten with time and end up losing relevance with time. These set of circumstances can’t help but leave a weary feeling of mistrust and fear for life amidst the lack of humanity shown by the protectors and accountability for the same. It is hence the need of the hour to urgently introduce police reforms and to ensure due implementation of the same, in order to save the humanity from crumbling in the hands of those who are employed to stand up, in order to keep the same safe from harm.
This article has been written by Ishita, III year