By Md Hasanujjaman
I am one of the arrested students in connection with the protest against the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hyderabad (UoH). I belong to a minority community of West Bengal. My family is financially backward. Here I would like to narrate the police brutality on me and my fellow victims in police van on the way from UoH to Miyapur Police Station on 22 March, 2016.
Before joining UoH, I was naive about the problems in the society. I had no idea of the pathetic and dehumanized condition of the dalits and the adivasis. I was hardly aware of the dangerous consequences of caste system in the Indian society. But after coming to UoH, I began to understand the real picture of the caste system, which leads to utter discrimination and dehumanization of the dalits. I understood that the caste system makes the lives of the dalits extremely miserable. Realizing my responsibility as an independent and right thinking citizen of this country, I found that the caste system is a tool of dehumanization and therefore it must be annihilated. I stood against this discrimination of the caste system and, thus, I aligned with the movement which Rohith Vemula was part of.
Being a dalit, Rohith Vemula was institutionally discriminated and forced to take his own life. The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Appa Rao Podile, directly perpetrated the institutional and social boycott against the five dalit students, including Rohith. Following Rohith’s suicide, the VC was booked under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, according to whose provision the accused must have been arrested within 24 hours from the lodging of the FIR.
However, the FIR was lodged on 18 January, 2016 and till date he has not been arrested.
This is a gross violation of the constitutional provision. Instead he returned to the university and attempted to illegally reclaim his ‘vice chancellorship’ on the early morning of 22 March, 2016.
On the same day that is on 22 March, I went to attend a Pre-Submission Seminar in the department of English, School of Humanities, at around 2.00 pm. When I came out of the department at around 3.00 pm, I saw that the peacefully protesting female and male teachers and students were being dragged and beaten up mercilessly by the police. The police were chasing and lathi-charging on the protesters indiscriminately. It was obnoxious to see that the protesters being beaten up for raising their voice against the injustice.
It was a day of police violence on the democratic and peaceful protesters. I saw one student losing his consciousness and was rushed to a hospital. Many other students got their clothes torn due to the brutal manhandle and lathi-charge. But it was most painful to see that the women students and teachers being mercilessly beaten up by the police. They were thrashed on their private parts. I also witnessed female teachers being manhandled and molested by the police. It was a violation of women’s rights as the women students and teachers were molested by the male police. Dr Tathagata Sengupta, an assistant professor of Mathematics, was beaten up too.
It was a threatening moment in my life. I never saw such police violence in front of my eyes. I could not restrain myself from speaking against the police and, as a result, I was the next to be victimized.
However, the police brutality actually began when one teacher, one film-maker and sixteen students, including me, were chased and dragged into a police van. I was standing near the ‘Goodwill Canteen’ which is around 250 meter away from the VC`s lodge, where the protests were happening. Standing there I could see students and teachers being dragged into the police van. But I never thought that I would also be a victim of the police brutality. Suddenly, one police chased me and caught the collar of my shirt. I pleaded with him not to apprehend me as I did not commit any crime, except the fact that I supported the student movement, Justice for Rohith. I feel that I was targeted because I questioned the police on their face why Rohith did not get justice even after more than three months; why the accused for Rohith’s murder has not been punished; on what ground the VC has come to take charge of the university. Instead I was beaten up and thrashed hard and pushed into the police van.
This inhuman and brutal torture continued on all of us for around 50 minutes on the way from UoH to the Miyapur Police Station. Dragging me into the van, the police forcefully pushed me down into a corner seat. Before getting hit, I quickly looked at a fellow victim, Subhadeep Kumar and asked him what might happen to me as for the first time in my life I got into a police van. He assured me that nothing will happen as I did not commit anything wrong. I could not turn my face to have a look at the rest of the victims in the van. Again the police hit me on my shoulder. I pleaded with him not to hit me but the police pulled my hair and punched me hard on my back. Another police hurried at me and snatched my mobile and spectacle. When I pleaded to give me back the spectacle as I have serious eye problem, the police boxed on my right eye asking me why despite being visually challenged I spoke against the police.
Whenever I tried to look at my fellow companions, who were beaten up black and blue, the police hit me and cowed me down not to raise my head again. I heard my friends shrieking in pain as they were mercilessly thrashed and hit. Those who had beard and looked liked ‘Muslims’ were beaten up specifically as the police suspended them to be ‘like’ terrorists. The sounds of slapping and hitting still haunt my mind and I feel the pain.
Professor K Y Ratnam was also a victim of the police brutality. A filmmaker, Moses Abhilash, too, was unlucky to be a victim of the brutality. Abhilash was just shooting the videos of police lathi-charge which the police did not want the public to see. The police beatings left wounds on my body. When I requested for water, they gave me water only to be ready to get beaten up again. The physical assault was extremely systematic and cruel. At that moment, I doubted whether I was at all a human being.
While beating up, the police also unleashed verbal abuse on all of us at an extreme level. During the journey from the UoH to Miyapur P. S., the police were continuously abusing us with the most vulgar and objectionable language. “Madarchod, behenchod, chutia, bhosdike”, etc. were the common words they were throwing at us. They called us Pakistani ISI agents and alleged that we are spending Indian money and supporting Pakistan. They threatened to send us to Pakistan. They called us anti-national, alleging that we are conducting “beef festivals”, “kiss of love” programs, events on Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon. They said that they were taking revenge on us for their hard work on duty. They also assaulted our departed friend Rohith Vemula saying that he was a ‘bastard’, a ‘spoiled child’ and people are unnecessarily paying attention to his death.
They used extreme anti-women, derogatory, and sexist comments. They said that they would rape our mothers and sisters and also they vowed to bring them here and take their naked videos. They also threatened to do the same with our women friends in the university. Hearing these comments, I feel that the safety of the women is at great risk. I also feel that the posting of the police poses direct threat to women teachers, students and workers on the campus. Their comments and attitudes were dangerous as far as the safety and security of women are concerned in the society. It is appalling to think the police comments against women.
After brutal torture in the police van, we were subjected to harassment at the Miyapur Police Station. Once we reached Miyapur, all of us were made to sit on a dirty and cramped corridor. The police humiliated us by making our respected teacher Prof K Y Ratnam sit on the same dirty floor. The police lectured us about moral and ethical correctness. They behaved with us very rudely while taking our detailed information and pictures. On asking about our release, the police told us that everything is in hands of their “BIG BOSSES”. They also said that the Gachibowli police have already decided our fate. We were kept awake throughout the night by putting lights in front of our eyes and playing songs and videos. When we requested to let us sleep, they laughed at us.
The next day, a Sub-Inspector of the Miyapur P.S. called me for the interrogation and he took all my information in detail, including my family and relatives’ information. He also took the photos of my PAN, Aadhaar and university ID cards. He collected the phone numbers of my relatives from my mobile. He abused me very badly and threatened me that if something happened in future at the university, I will be a target even if I do not commit any crime.
Thereafter we were secretly taken to the Balanagar Police Station, where we were again harassed both physically as well as mentally. The police made us sit in a dirty and suffocating room. Professor Ratnam was again humiliated by making him sit at the feet of the police, who was sitting on a chair and giving us pedantic lecture on nationalism and education as to how we should develop our society. This is the same Sub-Inspector of Miyapur P.S. who abused me in a vulgar language and giggled and lied to me when I asked him where we were taken to. He also mocked at me by calling me “team leader” and “mastermind”. I don’t know his motive for calling me such things. But I am apprehensive that he was targeting me because of my Muslim identity. I was also not allowed to inform my worried family or friends about my whereabouts.
From the Balanagar P.S. we were secretly taken to the Government Area Hospital. We were shocked to know that we were taken to a hospital. I had wounds and pain caused by the police brutality the previous day. But I had no reason to expect any medical treatment. In the hospital, I was forced to stand in the queue for treatment. The doctor gave me a “fit to be produced at court” certificate, despite my critical health condition. I also saw Professor K Y Ratnam`s Blood Pressure touching around 220 mark in the BP machine. After the “treatment”, the Gachibowli CI, J. Ramesh, forced me to sign the arrest papers at around 9.00 pm on 23 March, whereas I was actually arrested by the police at 5.30pm on 22 March. When I tried to raise objection, the Gachibowli CI, J. Ramesh, threatened me that not signing the arrest papers would amount to additional cases against me. I was denied any interaction with any legal expert on these serious issues. When I politely told him, “Sir, my career would be shattered if my future is tarnished by filing cases against me”, he aggressively threatened me saying, “Shut your mouth up. Otherwise I will file more cases against you.” I do not know how to express the fear J. Ramesh generated in me.
After the doctor medically certified me “fit to be produced at court”, I was again confined in the police van. It was suffocating and scorching hot. I requested the police to let me stand out of the van until it moves. But the police as usual again threatened us. I was very hungry as I did not get anything to eat throughout the day. The police did not bother to hear any of my problems. Then I was taken to the honourable Magistrate at around 11.40 pm. But the Gachibowli police personnel, Naveen and Bhupathi, did not allow me to appear before the honourable Magistrate to narrate my suffering and woes.
At the Magistrate’s order, I was sent to Cherlapally Central Prison. Coming to the prison my health further deteriorated. I called a prison physician for treatment. He gave me a general pain-killer injection and some medicine for the wounds and pain caused by the police on 22 March. But he did not give me any proper treatment which I needed the most. It still pains me to remember that the doctor was not allowed inside the prison. I had to take an injection through the window. I also failed to have an eye check after the police hit me on my right eye on 22 March.
The police action threatened my life and also the hopes of my family. I feel helpless, hopeless and unsafe. The police filed false cases against me and others with the deliberate intention to destroy our future and our lives. The police terrorized us throughout the first 33 hours to ensure that we do not again protest against the government and its agencies. They kept saying that we should only study and not get involved in politics. They wanted to create a fear in us so that before protesting we will remember the trauma of the police brutality.
This poignant memory will always be haunting me throughout my life.
Md Hasanujjaman is pursuing M. Phil. in English Literature at the University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India.
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