Guwahati, March 26, 2020:
At a time when the fear of the coronavirus or COVID-19 has driven fear into the hearts of all and sundry, there is another fear that has now stricken the hearts of the citizenry: the fear of being charged with lathis (batons) by police personnel patrolling the streets which, by and large, continue to be empty. All across the country — and even in the NE — people have been witnessed carrying scars from these beatings which have become commonplace after the imposition of the lockdown that began on Wednesday. This signals at a humanitarian crisis in a country where crass racism and crimes against women continue unabated.
Errant youths who have ventured outside their houses are now being smacked brutally, leading some to cry “POLICE BRUTALITY”. However, people riding vehicles are being more or less given a free pass. “There are several incidents where the police at swung at people who were out to grab essentials, such as medicines. Whereas, the more privileged classes travelling by cars and scooters have been given a clean chit. This reeks of class discrimination”, told a resident of Guwahati city in Assam, under condition of anonymity.
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Earlier today, scenes were recorded in East Sikkim which show police hitting youths with batons before proceeding to make them catch their ears and perform sit-ups while they jeer and make a mockery. The video, meanwhile, has been shared on social media platforms, and is supposed to be amusing. However, it presents a rather bleak picture of the current society which is staring at both a health crisis and an economic collapse.
“There was baton charge against several lockdown violators in East Sikkim. Many people in Rey Khola were out on the rivers and roadside today which violates the prohibitory orders amid lockdown. Police had alerted the people not to come on the roads and avoid mass gathering to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 but still many violated the prohibitory order and came out and police thought it necessary to swing at them with lathis”, a source in Sikkim informed us.
Hello @DelhiPolice. Meat shops come under essential commodities that are allowed to remain open during this lockdown. So why are your men beating meat shop owners and making them shut down the shops in Jamia Nagar? pic.twitter.com/lCol5HEp29
— Sania Ahmad (@SaniaAhmad1111) March 25, 2020
The Quint reports that in New Delhi’s Zakir Nagar, the police harassed a meat shop owner for keeping his shop open on the day of the lockdown. However, netizens have condemned the act as meat falls under the category of “essential” commodities.
India Today has reported that a man in West Bengal’s Howrag succumbed to his injuries after he was brutally assaulted when he stepped out to purchase milk.
Meanwhile, IPS Officer Pankaj Jain took to Twitter to share a video of police officers spraying their lathis or batons with disinfectant before stepping out for their rounds. The post was heavily criticized by netizens after videos of police using excessive force against lockdown violators came to the fore.
How insensitive can one get 🤬
These are difficult times & what he is carrying only essential supplies, right?
Why should he be beaten black & blue like he is some criminal 😞
— Santosh Addagulla (@santoshspeed) March 25, 2020
Although it is the need of the hour to contain people to their houses in these times of need, the videos of such brutal incidents being made memes of leads one to ponder: are we living in a sick society? Is it not the duty of the ones in charge to sensitize and not to brutalize?
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) General Secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi, who earlier sent out a people-friendly directive on how to battle corona, has opined that the thrashing of people on the streets at a humanitarian crisis, however, the people must also realize the importance of staying at home. He told Inside Northeast, “Perhaps this Government has been a failure when it comes to creating awareness an driving home the point that staying home is of the utmost necessity. At the same time, the people also have to exercise caution and restraint. India is a country that sits at 140-ish in the world health index, and countries ranked in the top 10 are fighting to control it.”
Lurin further opined that there is a great need to sensitize the people regarding the threat posed by the corona, as well as take steps to ameliorate the loss to the economy effected by imposition of a lockdown. “In Assam, the Government has to carry out information drives about the disease. Moreover, they must also announce packages for the BPL people to ameliorate their suffering.”
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