Video of police manhandling Birgunj women sparks outrage

- Tsering D Gurung, Kathmandu

Nov 26, 2018-

A widely shared cell phone video showing Armed Police Force personnel using excessive force against two women in Birgunj has caused public outcry on social media, demanding action against those involved.

The short clip shows an APF personnel holding two women by their hair to the ground. When one woman manages to escape the officer’s grasp, the personnel reacts by pulling the other woman’s hair harder causing her to scream in pain. A crowd watches.

The APF personnel in the clip have been identified as constables Keshav Pant and Mahadev Pant. The duo were manning the Customs and Revenue Patrol unit on the day of the incident.

According to witnesses, the incident occurred around 3pm last Thursday near the Customs Office in Chat Gariya following an altercation between the police and the women who were said to be “smuggling” sarees from across the border.

Locals say it is not uncommon for women living near the border to help local businessmen bring over goods such as sarees in small quantities. The women, they say, are usually paid Rs50 per item and claim police usually turn a blind eye on such activities.

“I think they [police] reacted this way because there’s been pressure from higher authorities to act tough,” said Aashu Sharraf, a local resident. Sharraf pointed out recent media reports that police’s lax monitoring of the border as a possible reason.

Others believe these women are easy targets.

“Because they can’t take action against the big smugglers, they target these women who are merely foot soldiers,” said Arbind Singh.

In response to the incident, Dipendra Jha, the chief attorney of Province 2 tweeted: “I formally request the IGP of APF and APF DIG Province 2 to take immediate action against the security personnel involved in this inhumane and barbaric act.”

Some, including human rights officials, questioned police training.

“Which law or rule has given police the right to drag a woman by her hair like that,” Mohna Ansari, a commissioner with the NHRC wrote in a tweet.

For some, the clip proved too gruesome to be viewed.

Poet Viplob Pratik tweeted: “I don’t have the courage to click and watch this clip. And I will not. But let me say this is one of the minor examples of barbarism, there are many more behind the curtain, off the record.”

Following the backlash, DSP Tilak Bahadur Khadka said his department is reviewing the incident and will take necessary action against the personnel involved.

“We do not teach them to beat people,” said Khadka. “Our directive is simple: confiscate the goods and then let the people go.”

This is not the first time police have come under fire for use of excessive force, especially against people living in Tarai.

In September, a Madhesi activist died in police custody under mysterious circumstances.

Ram Manohar, a member of the Free Madhesh Movement, was detained in the city of Gulariya, Bardiya, on August 23 for waving black flags at Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav during his visit. A week later, he was pronounced dead. Police claim he fell sick and died while undergoing treatment in the hospital. His family believes he was tortured to death.

In 2017, the Tarai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRDA), an NGO working for protection and promotion of human rights in the Tarai, documented 118 cases of

torture of people while in detention.

The Armed Police Force, a paramilitary wing of police, was created in 2001 to counter insurgency operations. It is now primarily involved with law enforcement.

Bhushan Yadav contributed to this report.

Published: 26-11-2018 07:45

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