Punjab: Outrage over video clips of policemen thrashing curfew violators

Man Aman Singh Chhina
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Traffic policeman stops a tourist in Chandigarh. (Express Photo)

VIDEO CLIPS of policemen thrashing those violating the curfew called by the Punjab government in a bid to control the COVID-19 outbreak, which have gone viral on social media, has triggered widespread outrage. In past couple of days, a number of video clips, many of which seemingly shot by policemen themselves, have swamped Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

On Thursday evening, Punjab Chief Minister Captian Amarinder Singh tweeted that "policemen who were unreasonable with the people" would be posted to police lines.

One clip shows an SHO moving about in a black Scorpio car with a Mohali registration number, directing policemen to beat up persons on the streets with lathis. The persons on the receiving end are seen begging police to spare them as the latter land several blows on their legs and arms.

Police persons effecting the lockdown in Bibvewadi area in Pune

In another video clip, a differently-abled person riding pillion on a bike, is stopped and made to rub his nose on the road. The man’s companion can be heard pleading but to no avail.

Another video that has surfaced is of two youths are being beaten by policemen in uniform and plain clothes. “Uncle rehn do ji, uncle please (uncle please let it be)," they are heard saying, as a policeman hits him repeatedly on the head with a slipper while another hits him with a lathi. This was followed by heavy blows on the soles of their feet.
High Court advocate Navdeep Singh took to Twitter to protest against such treatment. “Dear @PunjabPoliceInd, you might want to look into this and identify these people? The citizenry as well as the police are facing stressful moments and anxiety, but this is not the way to instill confidence in the public,” he tweeted.

The video clips caused an uproar on social media, but some also defended the move. Among them was (retd) Gen V K Singh, former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of State of Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, who tweeted, "Sab police karmiyon se nivedan hai ki haath mein gloves pehen na na bhoolein. Aap apni jaan jokhim mein daal kar kich moorkhon ko anushasit kar rahe hain (All policemen are requested to not forget to wear gloves. You are putting your lives at risk to discipline some fools)."

Police personnel beat a person with batons as they enforce complete lockdown in Agartala. (PTI)

Speaking to The Indian Express, Leader of Opposition in state Assembly and AAP MLA Harpal Singh Cheema said people are facing shortage of medicines, especially in rural areas, due to which they are stepping out.

“The restrictions and curfew were imposed all of a sudden and therefore administratively certain arrangements could not be made. People are facing genuine problems and are also stuck in several towns and villages away from their homes. They have no option but to move out to reach their homes," he said.

He also cautioned Punjab Police, saying their personnel should function within the ambit of law. “The curfew has not been imposed due to law and order problems. It has been imposed because of health reasons. Do not use so much force that people rise against you and stop your entry into villages,” he added.

DGP Dinkar Gupta did not respond to calls and messages on the issue.

‘Like a strict mother beats her children’

"People are feeling bad about beating up by police during curfew. But it is said that a strict mother beats her children and they never fail in life. Same way we will push you back into your homes by slapping you on your face. We will not let you reach a point where you have to be carried on shoulders (after death)," says a Punjab Police woman officer on a video that has gone viral on Facebook.

The video has been shared by SP Jagdish Bishnoi.

In another video, shot in Ajnala, cops are seen beating up three labourers, one of whom is seen begging them to stop saying he had stepped out to buy flour.

Amritsar Rural SSP Vikramdeep Johal said instructions issued to officers did not include beating people. However, a video clip shows two policemen hitting two youths on the soles of his feet for allegedly violating curfew.

RTI activist and High Court lawyer H C Arora has written to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh regarding the same. "Most of the victims of police torture are poor. I saw a video in which a man is trying to show his stitches to police and saying he had come out to take medicine. But police beat him and humiliated him. Punjab Police can register a case for violating curfew but they don't have any right to hit people," said human rights lawyer Jaspal Singh Manjh.

In a video from Fazilka, women are seen accusing police of beating them after entering their homes.

There is another video on social media of two youth on a bike filming a police official traveling on a bike with a woman and two children, asking him why he himself is violating curfew.

A man called Sukhdev Singh was admitted in Guru Ramdas Medical College, Amritsar, with a broken nose and other injuries. His pregnant wife Renu Bala alleged that both were beaten mercilessly by two policemen. The incident was recorded on a CCTV camera outside their home.

ASI suspended

Amritsar Police on Thursday suspended Assistant Sub-Inspector Tarsem Singh for beating up a fireman.

Fireman Naresh Kumar had alleged that Tarsem Singh thrashed him outside Gate Hakima police station while he was returning from his job on Thursday.

- INPUTS FROM KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR