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Survey of Torture in Maharashtra

This study was undertaken in order to not only to understand the prevalence of violence in general and torture in particular, but to also assess the need for a rehabilitation centre in Mumbai or anywhere in Maharashtra. In the course of this work we collected statistical information on the prevalence of violence, interviewed a cross section of individuals and organisations: retired and serving police officials and judges, doctors and medical associations, activists and human rights organisations, human rights lawyers, and many others.

We found that torture by the police is widespread and routine. Even senior police officials admit that it happens. Specific methods of torture are used, and these often leave very typical, well-known signs. They also cause familiar psychological problems. The weakest sections of society – children, women, poor – are the most frequent targets of torture. The report concluded that the rehabilitation of torture victims (some would say all prisoners) is certainly a societal imperative. A centre to take up this task is needed. The report provides the guidelines for the services such a centre should provide. It adds that a rehabilitation centre for police torture victims should also welcome victims of other kinds of torture and violence. Secondly, as vital as it is to rehabilitate torture victims, prevention of torture should be a greater long-term priority. This could be done through training programmes, by human rights curricula and by strengthening human rights groups.

The report states that, “Human rights need to be much more widely known and respected in India. In particular, human rights must be part of professional training programmes for doctors and police/ military personnel. More generally, human rights – perhaps defined as a greater respect for all human life – must become a part of society itself in ways it is not today. It should be integrated into school and college curricula across the country. Human rights groups must find ways to expand their activities. In the long run, there has to be an end to the kind of social sanction violence has, sanction that makes torture acceptable, accepted and not worth making a fuss over. There is a case here for a near-radical makeover of society. Of course, this kind of social reform has a number of dimensions, but clearly torture cannot be viewed simply as an evil whose victims need help. It is a social disease, no less; that must be eradicated. This overarching view of torture, this overall goal, must guide any work on this subject in India”.

Supported by: The Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, Copenhagen