Police rough up a Madhesi man yet again. This time, it’s on videoA viral video from Janakpur shows police pushing and pulling on a Madhesi man, prompting outrage on social media.
At a time when the Nepal Police is promoting its ‘Police, my friend’ campaign, a video of several police personnel manhandling a Madhesi man has prompted outrage on social platforms, as Nepalis criticise the heavy-handedness of the police while dealing with the public, especially Madhesis and Tharus in the southern plains.
According to Ghanashyam Mishra, a journalist who filmed the video, the police roughed up Sushil Karna, a social campaigner, after summoning him to the Janaki police station at the Janaki Temple in Janakpur. Karna had previously confronted police personnel for beating a coconut vendor while clearing the temple premises. Police had then asked him to present himself at the police station, said Mishra.
“Karna then called some of his friends, including me and Rastriya Janata Party spokesperson Krishna Singh, fearing the police might do something wrong,” Mishra told the Post in a phone interview on Friday.
When Mishra arrived at the police station, police personnel and Karna were in the midst of a heated discussion, when all of a sudden an officer slapped Karna. The situation quickly escalated and Mishra began to record the video.
In the video, a group of police personnel can be seen pushing and pulling on Karna, while his friends attempt to shield him from the police.
Mishra and Singh called Superintendent of Police Shekhar Khanal and Chief District Officer Pradip Raj Kandel, prompting the police to recall the officer, Tourist Police Assistant Sub-Inspector Birendra Yadav, to the district police office.
Yadav was asked to apologise to Karna.
The incident is just one instance of police highhandedness in the Tarai, which has been criticised time and again by human rights organisations. According to a recent study carried out in various prisons across the country, detainees from ethnic communities in the Tarai reported undergoing more torture and misbehaviour at the hands of the police.
In July, a Madhesi man was shot dead by the police in a protest in Sarlahi, marking one more instance of police quickly resorting to live ammunition when dealing with unrest in the Tarai.
In August last year, Ram Manohar Yadav was arrested from Gulariya, in Bardiya, for displaying black flags in protest against Deputy Prime Minister Upendra Yadav. Ten days later, Yadav’s family was told that he had died in police custody. While police maintained that Yadav had pre-existing health conditions that led to his death, his family, friends and rights activists blamed mistreatment in prison. Yadav’s wife Sunita has alleged that her husband was tortured to death. The autopsy report was never made public.
These instances have led to a mass outpouring of criticism against the police, prompting the authorities to provide assurances of better behaviour. Karna’s treatment, however, does not show much improvement in the police’s behaviour, a fact that was pointed out by many on social media.
“What’s happening (here) Nepal Police?” one Twitter user wrote. “People are losing faith in you. Why is the police becoming so corrupt? Isn’t it the duty of the police to protect the people? Isn’t it a crime to manhandle a person after calling them to the police station? We have to fear the police when one must feel a sense of security! It’s time the police are aware.”
Vijay Kant Karn, a political analyst, blames the current government and its disregard for the human rights of citizens for the police’s behaviour.
“This incident is just one of many that occur every day in the Madhes,” he said. “The police in the Madhes act like occupation forces and in most instances, treat the general people as subjects, not citizens.”
That this incident involved a tourist police does not bode well for Visit Nepal 2020 either, said Manish Jha, the national tourism campaign’s coordinator for Province 2.
“If unchecked, incidents like these will discourage tourists from coming to the province, especially to the Janaki Temple, which is one of the major attractions for tourists from various nations,” said Jha.
The outrage over Karna’s treatment has prompted the Dhanusha District Police Office to issue a press statement, saying departmental action will be taken against any police personnel found guilty in the altercation.
According to Chandra Kishore, a journalist, police’s activities in the Madhes has always been of an oppressive nature.
“There are a lot of incidents like this one that occurs in the Madhes, but this one is different because there is video evidence of police brutality,” said Kishore. “As Karna had visual evidence of their wrongdoing, the police became agitated and tried to harass him in the hopes of inducing fear.”