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Video exposes Indian police brutality

  • Story Highlights
  • Video shows girl being physically abused by police, rights group says
  • Human Rights Watch says some police are becoming vigilantes
  • Report also shows poor conditions that police are expected to work under
  • The government has promised changes
By Sara Sidner
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UTTAR PRADESH, India (CNN) -- An Indian police office grabs two fists-full of a suspect's hair; twists and then lifts until the suspect's feet dangle off ground. The suspect: A 6-year-old girl accused of stealing 280 rupees or about 6 dollars. The incident resulted in one officer being fired, another suspended. Charges against the girl were dropped. It was all caught on tape in February of this year.

Harcharand Singh and his wife. Mr Singh says their son, accused of thief, died in police custody.

Harcharand Singh and his wife. Mr Singh says their son, accused of thief, died in police custody.

Two years earlier in another Indian state another caught on tape moment. A police officer watches as a crowd beats an accused thief. Then the policeman binds the suspect and ends up dragging him behind a motorcycle leaving large raw patches of skin on the suspect's body. The accused survived the thrashing. Two officers were fired in the incident but were later reinstated by a panel that blamed the crowd.

Brutal police tactics are all too common in India according to the latest report by Human Rights Watch in India. Naureen Shah with Human Rights Watch says the report is based on interviews with 80 police, 60 alleged victims and other experts.

"The police are taking the law into their own hands." Shah says. "They are acting as a vigilante force and they're saying this is a bad guy instead of building a case against him we're going to kill him, we're going to take these harsh measure cause it has to get done."

"Police administration are meant to protect, but they are becoming predators." Harcharand Singh says. He is the father of a suspect he says died in police custody.

Singh and his wife are dirt poor and partially blind. They sit on a bed with tears in their eyes as they speak about losing their son Pradeep.

They say police hauled Pradeep away one night accusing him of being involved in a car theft and shooting. Days later they say he died in police custody. Police refused to comment on the case or the report.

"We are scared." Mother Ram Vati Singh says through tears. "What else can we do? We have no money so that we can leave or put up a fight with the police."

The case was one of dozens highlighted in the Human Rights Watch report used as yet another example of what they say is out of control police behavior. Video Watch a report on abuse cases »

But the report also revealed something else. The terrible conditions police work and live in. Many live in police stations for days even months at a time unable to go home to see their families because they are expected to be on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Some work and live in tents in scorching temperatures. Their bathroom facilities are often wretched. Their cooking facilities sometimes made up of bricks with fire wood. The number of cases and pressure to solve them is intense. Police also say they are short staffed. One police official told us in his jurisdiction there are 70 police for a population of 250-thousand people, something CNN is unable to independently confirm. There are no computers for reports so police officers fill everything out by hand. Some departments even run out of paper to write the reports according to the Human Rights Watch report.

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Ved Marwah says the conditions are dire.

"The policemen are treated very inhumanly and that's why he gets desensitized and brutalized by his living and working conditions an by his interaction with the common citizen and with his superiors and that desensitization is reflected in the way an average policeman deals with the public at large." Marwah says.

Marwah says there is also interference from politicians in police investigations.

"Politics plays a very negative role." He says. Today's politicians, every politician there are good politicians and bad politicians, every politician looks upon it as a profession and he's there to make a quick buck and when he gets that control over the police, he uses an misuses not to ensure that the police enforces the rule of law, but to see that the police commits or doesn't commit a particular action to help him in his personal ends."


Efforts to reform police activities were ordered by India's supreme court three years ago. Marwah and Human Rights Watch both agree the ruling was never implemented. However the current government is promising changes. But Marwah says until it really happens, the abuses by and to police will continue unabated.

"Because ultimately the police, unlike the army, is absolutely under political control. He says "If those who control the police have no will to reform it, then nothing is going to happen."

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