Thursday, August 20, 2020

Why People Tolerate Police Brutality

India has its own problems with out-of-control police:

For decades, India has absorbed case after case of police brutality, torture and extrajudicial killings. Every year, scores of Indians are killed in what activists call “fake encounters,” and many more, activists say, are tortured to death in police custody.

Many of these killings have been extensively covered in the Indian news media, and some have set off a few strikes and demonstrations. But rarely have they provoked widespread protests calling for change.

Nothing is ever really done about the problem for the usual reasons: ethnic or religious divisions, and fear of crime:

According to a lengthy report by the National Campaign Against Torture, an Indian rights group based in New Delhi, the capital, at least 1,731 people were killed in custody last year. The majority of the victims, the report said, were the usual victims of abuse: Muslims and lower-caste Hindus. . . .

Many Indians, exasperated with the sclerotic functioning of an overburdened and often corrupt law enforcement system, crave justice and welcome the elimination of people they see as criminals. 

“There are outright public celebrations of police killings,” said Devika Prasad, head of police reforms at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a human rights organization. “The extremely slow judicial process and low conviction rates make people fear that criminals will get away with their crimes. That’s why many see these killings as just.”

When people are afraid, either of random violence or of group conflict, they will support, even revel in, savage violence by those they see as their defenders.

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