Video of police officer baton charging a woman carrying a child outrages the publicThe video once again calls attention to the police’s use of excessive force against peaceful protestors who pose no threat.
A video showing a police officer baton charging a woman with a child in her arms went viral on Friday, prompting criticism, once again, against the Nepal Police’s excessive use of force against civilians.
The video was widely shared on social media, with many calling out the police’s actions. Others pointed to the incongruity between the Nepal Police’s ‘police, my friend’ (prahari, mero sathi) campaign and the numerous documented instances of police officers exercising undue force.
“What kind of brutality is this?” questioned one user on Twitter while others called for departmental action against the police officer in the video.
Another Twitter user wrote that the police’s actions were “utterly despicable and outrageous”, especially when as they were targeted at a woman carrying an infant child.
According to police, the incident took place on Thursday at the Bhainsepati residence of Hem Khatri, a retired Nepal Army general, where a group of women had gathered to protest, “demanding justice” for a woman, identified as Mala Shah, who has alleged that she was in a relationship with Khatri. Shah began protesting after Khatri allegedly broke off contact with her, according to Senior Superintendent Tek Prasad Rai, chief of the Lalitpur Police. Hema Shrestha, the woman seen being beaten, was there to support Shah in her protest.
“They’ve been protesting for some months now,” said Rai. “We requested them to initiate legal action if they had a case but they refused to budge.”
Rai, however, said he was unaware of the video or of the policeman’s actions.
“Women police cannot be present everywhere all the time. If a policeman was involved, he must have been trying to disperse the crowd,” Rai told the Post. “We’ve formed a three-member committee to look into the matter and we will take action based on its recommendations.”
प्रहरि मेरो साथि भनेको ठुलाबडा नेताहरु, मन्त्रीहरुलाई सलाम हान्न मात्रै हो ? नत्र जनतासग सामान्य व्यवहार गर्न किन चुक्दैछन , नेपाल प्रहरी ? जनतालाई अातंकबादि जस्तो व्यवहार चित्त बुझेन ल ! pic.twitter.com/Ly2FmDiJr7— Vimal Lamic (@juction4love) February 28, 2020
Police took six women, including Shrestha, into custody and charged four of them with indecent behaviour, according to Rai. Two have already been released.
The policeman in question has been identified as Inspector Devi Prasad Paudel, chief of the Bungamati Metropolitan Police Sector. Paudel conceded to the Post that he had used his baton to disperse the women after repeatedly asking them to leave.
“We asked the women to initiate legal processes," said Paudel. “But they refused to move and we had to clear the area. We have to use some force when the situation gets out of control.”
A police team, which also included woman, had reached Khatri’s residence on his call. The team, which also included women police, used force to disperse the crowd after the women refused to end the sit-in.
Inspector Paudel is seen pushing Hema Shrestha, who was carrying a baby, from the police vehicle and hitting her with a stick from behind in the video. The police later took six women under control.
Despite Nepal Police promising to be friends with the public, the department of late has been embroiled in controversies for failing exercise restraint.
Earlier in December, police had baton-charged fans gathered in front of the Dashrath Stadium to watch the South Asian Games football final between Nepal and Bhutan. The police’s actions were widely criticised on social media, especially as video and photos emerged of police aiming kicks and batons towards people who posed no threat.
Again in December, in Kohalpur, images of police officers baton-charging students in school uniforms were widely shared and widely condemned, with many drily asking if this was what the Nepal Police meant when they began their ‘police, my friend’ campaign.