Friday, December 31, 2010

VINOD GUPTA, JAUNPUR - Driver's Trauma and New Height of Custodial Violence

This is a real story, not just of a man’s agony and suffering at the hands of the police and the system, but also of a country's shame at the gross violation of its principles of justice and freedom. Vinod Kumar Gupta of Jaunpur district was kept in police custody for almost a week, defying the rule clearly laid out in law that no one can be kept in custody for more than 24 hours without being produced before a competent magistrate. Vinod was denied not only fair trial, but was also subjected to the extremes of torture that would have made even the strongest of men weep.
     28-year old Vinod was working as a driver with one Mahendra Seth of Sipah area in Jaunpur. Vinod tells that on 23 January, 2010, he had driven Mahendra Seth’s son Ajay to Varanasi. Ajay told him to take the car to Madagin and be there to await his call. According to Vinod, when no one called him till late at night, at about 10 pm, he gave a missed call to mobile no. 9918982059. He recalls, "Ajay told me to bring the car to the crossing.  I saw Ajay coming along with his uncle and a small child. Later, after dropping uncle at his house, we started our journey for Jaunpur. About 2 kms  before Pindara, an Indica car (silver colour) started following us. I only remember that car had a registration number starting with up 50 h."
     "A few miles ahead on the highway I was signaled by the driver of the Indica to stop. I committed the mistake of doing so. Immediately, 4 people came out of the car and pointed pistols at us and robbed us of our cash, mobiles, gold chains, rings and coats. After leaving Ajay in the car, they took me with them and left me at Phulpur market.  I didn't know what to do, so I asked for a lift in a vehicle passing by. As it was very cold,  I and the driver of the jeep had a cup of tea on the way and then I went to my home. This was a probably a big mistake. I should have gone straight to my owner’s house. Anyways after reaching my place I found my family had already been informed of the loot and that I was being looked for."
     "After some time, 2 policemen came and took me to the police station. There, I narrated the whole incident to Sethji’s nephew and the police sub-inspector. My nightmare started soon after. I was subjected to such extreme torture that even the mere memory of it sends shivers through me. I was seated on the ground with my legs spread apart and then lathi was placed on my thighs and a policeman jumped on it. Unbearable pain made me cry and beg for mercy but no mercy was given. The torture continued and then I was thrown in the lockup."
     "Morning came, and my tryst with third degree torture resumed.  I was brought out of the lockup, and taken and hung from a tree with my arms stretched and feet dancing in the air. It seemed like my arms would just tear away from my body. The pain was unimaginable and even then every few minutes, my feet were burnt with a candle and was lashed with a whip."
     "From the police station I was taken to the police lines where the circle officer too indulged in torturing me. I was stripped naked and then was thrashed by lathi till the point where they felt I would die. Gripped by panic I gave the name of one of my friends. He too was brought there and beaten up. Seeing his state I was filled with remorse. I told the cops that I had framed my friend because of fear. This unleashed a next round of torture."
     "All along I was being asked to accept the crime and give names of my aids in the crime. I was even promised a share in cash reward. I denied to accept the charges and so the atrocities went on increasing. Over the days I often felt I will die…I even thought of committing suicide."
     "For two days I wasn't allowed to sleep. On 30th January 2010, my father came to bail me out but the policemen didn't leave me. Later I was tied to a tree and was beaten up again.
 When I remember the barbaric behavior I was subjected to, I feel like crying. Days after being freed, I did not dare to go to a doctor, because the policemen warned me not to tell anyone about my injuries.
     After talking to us, Vinod feels relieved. "Now I am not so afraid of being killed, and am happy to stay with my family,’’ he says.

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