By: Sabreen Sukhija,17 and Jaanashee Punjabi,16
**Trigger Warning- Graphic Violence, Sex*al Assault **
Dear People of India,
We look down from heaven every morning, the distinct memory of being crouched up in the corner of the cell, completely stripped of our skin, dignity and rights lingering in our minds. Our screams hid behind the deafening sounds of iron rods hitting our bones, and the helpless voices of our family, crying loud and begging to let us go. That day,that night was when my son and I felt the true meaning of fear and saw the true nature of our police system.
Last month we were picked up by the Sathankulam police in Thoothukudi district for keeping our cellphone shop open over business hours. Fair enough, we had violated the lockdown guidelines, especially in such a difficult time where we all need to ensure ours as well as each other’s safety. But did we deserve the gruesome beatings and torture? Did our families deserve to see our blood-soaked clothes for three days straight? Was the macabre punishment necessary?
Even today, when the pandemic has left us struggling in a lockdown and having to deal with a financial and mental crisis; civilians like us are exposed to uncontrolled and rampant police brutality. We lost our lives during the pandemic not because of the virus but because of the flawed system that governs us.
The police have had a field day humiliating and harming lockdown violators. From sit-ups to being beaten to death, civilians and especially migrant workers have been stripped of their dignity. Police officials believe that they are tasked with “disciplining” the average citizen. Lockdown is proof of this overbearing culture that has been going on for years.
By allowing incidents like ours to occur, we as citizens have normalised police brutality, inculcating the culture of impunity within the police force, introducing authoritarian policing and shattering public confidence in our authorities.
Now, not only are we indifferent to the situation, but we also promote this kind of violence in movies and tv shows. Bollywood cop films are known to glorify violence. A cop can take the law into his hands as long as his intentions are moralistic. That is why in real life too, encounter specialists are labelled heroes and given promotions rather than going through a long-winded judicial process and having to justify their actions.
It seems that police have forgotten that the right to live with human dignity guaranteed under our constitution is quintessential to our existence.
In the end, it’s not just our story. It is the story of many others. The teenagers during the Jamia Incident on December 15, 2019. Innocent protesters at the Northeast Delhi riots February 23, 2020.
Muslim Firing at fishing village Beemapally in Trivandrum District, Kerala, 2009. Policeman whacking three Adivasi women in Golaghat District of Eastern Assam, September 8, 2019. CCTV footage of policemen appearing to molest a teenager with autism, who could not communicate why he was out during curfew. And many more cases which go ignored and unidentified.
So we ask you, what was their fault? What was the fault of their mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters and brothers, that they had to go through such hard times?
We all may have shown support through social media, but how many of us wrote letters to the authorities? Where did all the famous actors go? How many of them shared information? How many prominent media channels and newspapers wrote about us? How many of us wanted justice? How many of you remember who we were? Did we deserve to be forgotten, just because we stopped trending on Instagram?
How many more lives, until it truly matters?
Jaraj and Fenix