Cops lasso ‘thief’, drag him

New Delhi, August 28:

A man who tried to steal a chain was savagely beaten by a mob and police in eastern India and then tied by cops to a motorcycle and dragged through the mud, television footage showed today.

Indian news channels showed the gaunt man, dressed only from the waist down, sprawled in the mud begging for mercy in Bhagalpur in Bihar.

The town is notorious for an incident almost 30 years ago, in which some 30 men facing trial for banditry were blinded by acid poured on their eyes by locals.

State police said they were investigating footage of the incident, which happened yesterday, adding that the two policemen involved had been suspended. “It is very disturbing. It is very shocking. We condemn it in no uncertain manner,” said police spokesman Anil Sinha. “But don’t judge the whole law and order situation in the state. There are a lot of good policemen doing a lot of good work.” The impoverished state has an entrenched reputation for lawlessness, however, and is among the top states, along with northern Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, in complaints sent to human rights commission.

The police-heavy commission registered almost 75,000 complaints in 2004 to 2005, the most recent period for which figures are available, including 4,000 from Bihar.

The commission’s report did not elaborate on the nature of about two-thirds of the cases, many of which were dismissed without investigation.

But of about 25,000 cases for which a breakdown was given, more than a fourth were for “police excesses” and custodial deaths.

“Police brutality is endemic in India. It’s not an aberration, it’s a part of routine police behaviour,” said Ravi Nair, head of the Delhi-based South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre.