The Wire | 10 May 2019
By Sabika Abbas and Devika Prasad
Two recent incidents serve as a wake-up call to the reality of targeted discriminatory violence in police custody and prisons. That the custodians are often the perpetrators is part of this harsh reality, signalling an urgent need to expose the scale of systemic abuse and discrimination prevalent within these institutions. The urgency is heightened for those most vulnerable caught by the criminal justice system in the largest numbers – Dalits, Muslims and Adivasis.
In one incident, in April, Nabbir, a Muslim undertrial, alleged that the superintendent of Tihar’s Jail No. 4, where he was lodged, forcibly burned an ‘Om’ symbol on his back. This was not only a brutal act that constitutes torture, it was also a deliberate attack on Nabbir’s religious identity. Branding a Muslim person’s body with a Hindu religious symbol is nothing short of a hate crime. That the head of the prison is alleged to have done this shakes the very foundation of the system.