Javed Iqbal | Monday, March 19, 2012, DNA

Torture has long been employed by well-meaning, even reasonable people armed with the sincere belief that they are preserving civilisation as they know it.

Aristotle favoured the use of torture in extracting evidence, speaking of its absolute credibility, and St Augustine also defended the practice. Torture was routine in ancient Greece and Rome, and although the methods have changed in the intervening centuries, the goals of the torturer — to gain information, to punish, to force an individual to change his beliefs of loyalties, to intimidate a community — have not changed at all.’ — from The Dynamics of Torture, by John Conroy.

The medical report on adivasi teacher Soni Sori’s condition while she was in police custody submitted in the Supreme Court stated that stones were found lodged in her vagina and her rectum.

The Supreme Court had given the Chhattisgarh government 55 days to respond, and sent her back to the Chhattisgarh jails, and revealed once again that the rule of law and the Constitution are divorcing themselves from the aspirations of citizens, whose fundamental right to life has to be protected by the courts, not something the state is allowed to take away the instant she is considered a Maoist sympathiser.

Her hearing was supposed to be held on January 25, but never came up. Instead, Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, whom she accused of torturing her, won the president’s medal for gallantry on Republic Day for his conduct during an encounter with the Maoists in 2010. Since then, her case has been listed but hasn’t been heard, it being over five months since she was tortured.

To the state machinery, it remains a story of he said-she said, as torture in police custody leaves no witnesses besides the tortured themselves. But in this case, the accused has a medical report from Kolkata to confirm her allegations. Even then, custodial violence is endemic.

The National Human Rights Commission is on record saying that 1,574 custodial deaths took place between April 2010 and March 2011. And between 2001 and 2011, there were around 15,231 custodial deaths, according to the Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The unaccounted and the unaccountable:

Meena Khalko, 16, was killed in an alleged encounter and accused as a Maoist. Allegations surfaced that she was raped and murdered. The Chhattisgarh home minister parroted his police officials, who said she was ‘habitual about sex’ and had links with truck drivers.

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