Election season is arresting season

May 12, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

police harassmentAhmedabad, May 5, 2014: For many on the lower rungs of society, election season means unnecessary police harassment. According to the Election Commission, around 1.8 lakh preventive detentions were made by the police across Gujarat to keep the peace in advance of elections.

Preventive detentions, Additional Director General of Police T. S. Bishth said in an interview with TwoCircles.net, are not always arrests and the process for determining a criminal is “very subjective.”

The law used to conduct preventive detentions or actions falls under Section 107 (a person likely to disturb tranquility or peace), 109 (person in compliance or abetment of crime), and 110 (security for good behavior from habitual offenders) of Indian Code of Criminal Procedure.

While many of the arrests during this season are against bootleggers selling liquor, or those who have previous criminal records, a large amount of these arrests are bogus and made to build up the police officers’ report card.

“Anyone who is likely to cause unrest to public safety will be detained,” Mr. Bishth said. He added that the number of actual long term detentions was only 590, but the rest were preventive actions. An example of a preventive action could be a dispute between two people over property. The two will have to go to court and sign off a security deposit that they will not “create trouble” during election season. If this is violated, punitive action can be taken.

The grounds for arrest or detention are often murky. “They only cause trouble for Dalits, Muslims, and poor people during election,” said Mr. Bharat Bayabai Parmar, who had a Section 110G placed on him, and was briefly detained. His arrest from ten years back was for retaliating at a police officer who was taunting him. He assaulted an officer, so naturally he would be the first to be arrested during these kinds of election rituals.

“Now, why are they suddenly bringing out old issues? Because I don’t have any resources. I don’t have any power or support.” He also claims he has been falsely booked for offenses, while well known VHP goons are well and fine. During the riots, when he was arrested, many VHP folks were, according to Mr. Parmar, given full meals in jail and treated like “VIP”, while others were only given biscuits.

The police told him to come to the office and sit there for several hours, without any particular reason, just a week before the election. “Why haven’t they arrested the people who were causing trouble during the riots?” he asked, visibly shaken up. “Because those people have money power and muscle power.”

It appears some of the arrests made were actually useful ones. Those criminals who already had warrants against them for extortion, murder, or property theft were arrested. TwoCircles.net could not get a straight answer as to why those cases were lying untouched before election season.

Overall, the police are required to meet certain quotas of detentions during election season. Even Mr. Bishth himself admitted that the arrests are purely directed towards lower income people, stating that they would never arrest a “white collar criminal.” They also identified 3,600 “probable trouble makers” in 1,950 villages and temporarily detained them, all to prevent poll related violence. Nevertheless those detained are released at the time of voting, leaving one to wonder how useful or necessary is the EC’s method.

– tcn

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