Brutal action against minors and their detentions under draconian laws are unacceptable

Unabated terror in Khaki
It is difficult to regard the complaint lodged by parents of an 11 year old girl in Boniyar, Uri, against the SHO Police that the girl was detained in the police station and beaten to pulp as something trivial, even if the police’s contention that the girl was not beaten but only summoned to find the whereabouts of a missing woman. That 11 year old’s interrogation did lead the police to the missing woman does not justify the act. The very affair of summoning a minor girl, unaccompanied by her guardians to a police station is a grossly unfair and illegal act and needs to be condemned and opposed, not justified or covered up for. It needs an immediate thorough probe. If the police has subjected the minor girl to physical violence, it is indeed a heinous crime. But, even if there is no trace of violence, the illegal act of summoning a minor girl to the police station for sustained interrogation amounts to irreparable psychological terror and trauma, it would still be a crime and cognizance needs to be taken of that. 

The question that first needs to be asked is why laws and procedures were bypassed in summoning minors to the police stations and detained them for suspected crimes or for interrogating them in pursuit of clues in any case. At the same time, it is important to reflect on the extremely powerful and authoritarian role that the police, an important institution in governance and maintaining law and order, are assuming without an implemented system of accountability. The khakhi terror is a familiar story across the country, with men expected to maintain law and order, taking law into their hands and perpetuating brutal actions on public both to suit the political powers that patronize them and to satiate their own appetites of enjoying unaccountable power over the public, rather than being accountable to the public and responsive to their needs. Custodial killings and torture trails are also common. 

The phenomenon is much worse in Jammu and Kashmir where police personnel enjoy unbridled freedom in the name of counter insurgency. Having become habitual of unchecked use of brutal methods in crackdowns, interrogations and for crowd controls, police personnel have begun to feel that they can get away with anything. The unjustified brutality against minors is only one part of the story, nonetheless an important one. The Boniyar case cannot be treated as an aberration. It only follows a long list of multiple allegations against brutes in khakhi of using disproportionate violence against minors during protests and not even hesitating to snuff out lives of boys as young as nine year old, as is the case of Sameer Rah in 2010. Dangerous precedents were set in 2010, though torture and abuse of minors at the hands of men in uniform was not totally unknown before that. But it is since 2010 that such cases of minors facing brutal action of the belt force became more routine. The year saw a spiraling trend in random crackdowns, raids and arrests of youth and minor teenagers, framing of cases against them or detaining them under PSA, a policy that continues till date. Hundreds of those detained under PSA, languishing in jails without evidence, without cases and trials, are exposed to high degrees of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. While the law itself is unjustified allowing arrests of minors upto 16 years of age, boys younger than 16 have also found their way to the jails and have been detained under PSA. Only some of these cases have come to limelight and despite much criticism, the government has been reluctant to act suitably and take action to ensure that minors are not victimised. Such lack of accountability and permissibility enjoyed by the police to act brutally with minors without following due process of law has only bolstered them to carry on with something that is shocking, illegal and unethical. The Boniyar case only reveals how dangerous such policies of unbriddled powers to the uniformed forces can lead to.