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While people are quick to label her a terrorist, Sadhvi Pragya’s allegations of custodial torture are swept under the ‘liberal’ rug

Custodial torture is an ugly reality of our times which continues to survive because of lack of sufficient measures to deal with it accompanied by selective outrage against it.

Ever since the BJP fielded Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as its Lok Sabha candidate from Bhopal constituency in Madhya Pradesh, several questions are being raised about fielding an “accused” in the Malegaon Blast Case making vicious insinuations about some hidden Hindutva agenda of the party. Overlooking the huge difference between the status of an accused and a convict, she is being deliberately referred by some as a “terrorist”. Interestingly, everyone, including the human rights activists, courts of law as well as media, seems to have turned a blind eye to one crucial aspect of this whole scenario and that is the allegations of brutal custodial torture levelled by Sadhvi Pragya.

Surprisingly, the self-proclaimed feminists and social justice warriors who tirelessly rant about the deteriorating level of tolerance and the so-called sorry state of the minorities India have turned a deaf ear to a woman who has made some serious allegations of custodial torture on the hands of male officers.

Sadhvi Pragya broke down narrating her ordeal as she addressed her party workers for the first time after her candidature was announced. “When they took me into custody illegally, they kept me there for 13 days. On the very first day, without asking any question, they started thrashing me with a belt”, she recalled. With a lump in her throat, she said that she was sharing her painful experience not to play the victim but to make sure that no other woman has to go to through what she had to go through.

She broke down as she relived the humiliating experience while bringing it before the world. “They used at hurl filthy abuses at me while beating me. They would even threaten me to hand me upside down and disrobe me”, she went on trying to stop her tears. She told that she was subjected to narco tests, polygraph tests and brain mapping tests three times. She has claimed she was brutally beaten up by male officers with a broad expeller belt, day and night for 24 days in custody. “My arms and legs were swollen, which were then immersed in salty warm water, and the beatings resumed. In custody, the officers used to hurl filthy abuses at me, and forced me to hear objectionable CDs. They wanted to forcibly extract confession from me in order to implicate senior RSS leaders,” she has alleged.

She has alleged that she was even deprived of sleep as a tactic to weaken her mentally so that she would give up and make the false confession. These details were shared by Sadhvi during her appearance on the show Aap Ki Adalat.

What is rather disheartening and at the same time alarming is that the allegations she is levelling are not even considered just because she is an accused in a case. Why are her allegations not worth looking into?

Suddenly the intellectual strata of the society blinded by its bias are behaving as if custodial torture is completely alien to this country. Custodial torture is an ugly reality of our times which continues to survive because of lack of sufficient measures to deal with it accompanied by selective outrage against it. The Supreme Court in the landmark case of D K Basu v State of West Bengal (1996) while delving into the issue of custodial torture and deaths taking place in police custody observed: In all custodial crimes that is of real concern is not only infliction of body pain but the mental agony which a person undergoes within the four walls of police station or lock-up. Whether it is physical assault or rape in police custody, the extent of trauma a person experiences is beyond the purview of the law.

In a justice delivery system that works with the speed of a snail, the accused, especially those belonging to ordinary backgrounds with no political backing, are cursed to suffer throughout the trial regardless of whether the trial concludes in conviction or acquittal.

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