With a national population of over 1.3 billion, India should be very concerned about the novel coronavirus, covid-19, currently spreading across the globe. But there are still plenty of people out and about despite a lockdown, and the police have resorted to physical violence to get people to return home.
With a population so large, India’s full national lockdown is the biggest we’ve seen so far in the wake of covid-19, but India’s local police forces are turning to violence to enforce the new rules, the Associated Press reports:
Although the lockdown made provisions for people to leave their homes to buy food, TV news and social media showed police striking would-be shoppers in the streets with batons in the southern state of Kerala, the financial hub of Mumbai and New Delhi.
Alok Barman, a servant who works in several well-to-do south Delhi households, said he was beaten up by police when he ventured outside his home in the city’s outskirts.
“Some homes that I work in paid me some money and I thought it was best to get some food in the house. But the police attacked us with sticks and beat us,” he said. “Now we have nothing to eat.”
Tarique Anwar, a former banker, said he went out to buy milk and vegetables at a grocery store in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar neighborhood when he was confronted by a group of policemen who ordered him to go back. He only managed to get vegetables.
A video shot by a passerby showed a policeman using his baton to smash the interior of a meat shop in the capital’s Zakir Nagar neighborhood. The shop’s owner said police also beat him up and told him he shouldn’t have opened his shop.
“They charged inside and started abusing and beating me,” said Parvez, who uses only one name.
New Delhi police spokesman Anil Mittal denied that police were beating people.
The police violence is happening despite a specific allowance in the government order to allow people out for food and supplies shopping, but the authorities don’t seem to care.
Local media reported yesterday that the wife of a 32-year-old man in West Bengal claims her husband was beaten by police while out to buy milk under the lockdown, and later died of his injuries. Police claim he died of heart problems he had already been experiencing.
Here’s video of some of the alleged beatings, via Carscoops. Warning, it can be hard to watch:
The AP also reports that in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, there are already over 5,590 cases against individuals charged for not staying home.
The report also points out that the lockdown comes during the start of the Hindu new year and a nine-day holiday celebration that traditionally draws people to religious gatherings and temples, and some have already defied the government for the celebration.
Just a couple of months ago, India’s police forces were accused of targeting Muslims and beating and torturing individuals during demonstrations against a divisive citizenship law that led to organizing and rioting across India, the New York Times reported.
Unfortunately, in times of crisis, those who hold any power only have more leverage to abuse it. I just hope some international spotlight on beating people for trying to get food before an epidemic lockdown is enough to at least stop the beatings.