Police Brutality

As the well-deserved excitement over the worldwide success of Slumdog Millionaire fades at last, it may be time to address an issue peripherally raised by the movie that has been entirely ignored amidst all the hoopla. The film opens with and features horrifying scenes of police brutality, with the cops torturing Jamal, including with electric shocks, to get him to confess to cheating in the quiz show. How come there wasn't a huge public uproar over this? Not only is there no outrage, we all seem to take such scenes for granted: the general view appears to be that this sort of thing probably happens all the time.

Well, it shouldn't. No civilized democracy conducts or condones torture, whether of its citizens or others. The police may have fallen into the pattern of routinely continuing practices left over from colonial days, when police were instruments of repression, but that's no excuse today. Mistreating any member of the public is in fact against the law in democratic India, and any policeman who behaves as the cops in the movie did are liable to seven years' rigorous imprisonment. But, as the screenwriters assumed, it seems to happen anyway, and unless society rises up in anger against this kind of police behavior, it may well continue.

Torture is wrong. It's morally unacceptable, legally unjustifiable, and practically ineffective. It shouldn't be allowed to happen anywhere in India. And if and where it does, it has nothing to do with the kind of India our leaders are trying to build in the 21st century.

It's time for every thinking Indian to stand up and raise our voices against the practice. Torture must stop. And the next time a movie shows an Indian policeman resorting to torture, I hope it also shows him being tried and sentenced for it. That may be the only way to bring about the shift in attitudes we need to ensure that torture has no place in our society -- or on our screens.

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