Young Life Lost: Police Assault Triggers Tragedy in Assam, Expose Deeper Systemic Issues in India

At least 4,484 custodial deaths and 233 encounters have been reported to have taken place between 2020 and 2022. The number is on the rise, showing cracks in the prison system, which has now claimed the life of another youth in a village in Assam.
Young Life Lost: Police Assault Triggers Tragedy in Assam, Expose Deeper Systemic Issues in India

Dergaon/New Delhi - The police force is supposed to look after and protect the civilians. But where do the civilians go if it is the police themselves who are harassing them? Incidents of police brutality are unfortunately very common in India. Recently, another case of this heinous crime took place in the north eastern state of Assam. A young boy committed suicide after being thrashed by the police without any reason.

On the occasion of Vijaya Dashami, a young boy Ajoy Dutta from Dergaon's Kumargaon Doloumukh went out to be a part of the celebrations. He was then dragged by police forces after he got involved in mediating a fight between two parties. Feeling embarrassed and dejected, Ajoy went live on Facebook to inform people that he would not be returning home. He said that the police had dragged him into their car where they and their driver thrashed him mercilessly. Ajoy revealed that he would be taking his own life. Later, his body was discovered hanging from a tree on the banks of the Gelabill river.

Assam Police Vows to be More Sensitive

Assam’s Deputy General of Police GP Singh took to the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) to inform everyone that he has taken due notice of the incident.

He then went on to say Golaghat’s Superintendent of Police has been asked to inquire about the matter. The DGP posted, “Assam Police is deeply distraught at the news of the suicide of a young fellow citizen Sri Ajay Dutta of Dergaon, District Golaghat. The Honourable Chief Minister of Assam has conveyed to me his grave concern about the incident. SP Golaghat has been directed to inquire into the matter and fix responsibility for the unfortunate incident and also take lawful action as required by law. While conveying our deepest condolences to the bereaved family, I wish to reassure the people of Assam that our efforts would continue to make Assam Police a more sensitive and humane police unit. @GolaghatPolice @assampolice @DGPAssamPolice @CMOfficeAssam”

Number of Custodial Deaths and Encounters by the Police on Rise

The post mentioned that efforts would be made to make the police force more humane. But the reality is that it unfortunately is not, and no such active steps are being undertaken. According to the state-wise data released by the government regarding custodial deaths between 2020 and 2022, the state of Assam has shown an increase in the number. Between 2020-2021, the number of custodial deaths reported in the state was 19, while the number rose to 22 between 2021-2022. Also, this is only the reported number, as many such cases go unreported.

Among all the states, Uttar Pradesh tops the list. Between 2020-2021, 451 cases of custodial deaths were reported in the state, while 501 cases were reported between 2021-2022. West Bengal comes next, with 185 deaths between 2020-2021 and 257 in 2021-2022. Bihar comes in third, with 237 cases in 2021-2022, which increased from 159 cases in 2020-2021.

In general, 2021-2022 has seen a rise in custodial deaths compared to the preceding year. A total of 2,544 cases were reported in the previous year, with a 604 case increase from the 1,940 cases that were reported the year before it. At least 4,484 people died in police custody over the last two years. The data was presented by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai in response to a question by Indian Union Muslim League Member of Parliament Abdussamad Samadani.

While talking about police encounters, Jammu and Kashmir unfortunately is at the 1st rank. The union territory has seen an 800% increase in police encounters in 2021-2022 compared to 2020-2021. Chhattisgarh is at the 2nd rank, with 30 encounters taking place between 2021-2022. The number of encounters, in general, has increased from 82 in 2020-2021 to 151 in 2021-2022.

The Prison System

According to a government assessment of prison statistics released in 2020, Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis make up slightly more than half of all convicts and undertrials in Indian prisons. Based on data from the 2011 Census, these three communities make up 39.4% of India's total population. However, 50.8% of convicts come from these communities.

18.1% of India's total prison population, comprising both convicted and pending cases, were Muslims. This is more than the percentage of Muslims in India's population (14.2%, according to the 2011 Census). For Scheduled Castes/SCs/Dalits, the disparity is significantly worse.

Most of the people from marginalized communities come from a lower financial stratum. Because of this, they are unable to obtain competent legal counsel during the police investigation and court processes. Due to their disadvantage, they are unable to exercise basic legal rights like obtaining copies of police or court records and confirming that accurate information is being recorded, obtaining legal representation from attorneys qualified to navigate the complex legal system, requesting bail or parole, petitioning higher appellate bodies, etc.

Widespread prejudice against certain communities shown by the organs of government is not new information. Little justice is expected when people who ought to be behaving impartially and fairly begin to show such casteist and communal prejudices against Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis. This indirect discrimination has also led to many delays in justice.

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