August 23, 2016
Taking suo motu congnisance of a media report that how in Chennai the police illegally detained a 17-year-old boy and his two family members of Kuravar community in connection with a burglary and tortured them in the most inhuman way, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Tamil Nadu Government through its Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police.
The boy and his kin were purportedly detained on the ground that they belonged to a tribe dubbed by the British as criminals under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. The law is extinct now.
The Commission has asked for a detailed report, including the action taken if any, against the erring police personnel within four weeks.
The Commission has observed that no human being should be subjected to discrimination merely on the fact that he belongs to a particular caste, creed or community. The contents of the news report are a matter of concern. The incident, alleging illegal detention of a young boy, physical torture of the family members and atrocities committed by the police personnel, indicates violation of human right to life, liberty and dignity of the victims.
The media report, carried on August 7, 2016, under the heading “Ms. Bedi, I am a Kurava, and I’am not a thief”, narrates the story of the continued discrimination and torture of persons from ex-criminal tribe Kuravar. The story gives an account of the feelings of a Kurava boy in the backdrop of a tweet, reportedly made by Ms Kiran Bedi, Governor of Puducherry that “ex-criminal tribes” are very cruel professionals in committing crimes and rarely caught or convicted.
Even as the debate over the tweet continued, the boy was learning what it meant to be born a Kurava by giving an account of the torture, pain and discrimination his father suffered into the hands of police in the name of investigations without any case being registered three years back, and how he also became a victim along with one of his cousins and uncles. On July 31, 2016 some police personnel from the Ambattur police station, in Chennai, picked them up from his hut in Cholavandipuram, Villupuram district for questioning in connection with a burglary, about which he had no idea.
They were subjected to unbearable torture and inhuman treatment by the police during their detention at the station for three days. The victims were made partially naked, beaten up with wooden log and were forced to name someone from their community for his involvement in the theft. Badly injured, they had to drink the water, fetched from the lock-up toilet, as the drinking water was not available to them.
The juvenile was reportedly, released after his family convinced the police that he was just 17 years of age .The boy stated that he was earning by making old grinding stones non-abrasive. He appears to be totally disillusioned, with the ways of world, wondering whether what his father, uncle, cousin and he suffered was just because they were born as Kuravas.
The Joint Commissioner of Police (West), Chennai, reportedly stated that they were arrested for burglary and 18 sovereigns of jewellery recovered from one of them. He, however, also stated that he was not aware of detention of any juvenile. Reportedly, the family has filed a habeas corpus in the High Court for the two relatives of the boy who were detained by police along with him.