Ahead of state assembly elections 2023, #KhabarLive examines policing in Telangana.

With the Telangana state Assembly elections scheduled for November 30, #KhabarLive has examined the system of policing in the state under the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS)-led state government. The investigation found that the Telangana Police have breached privacy and infringed on human rights in a number of ways, including:

  • Randomly stopping people on the streets and checking their WhatsApp chats for the words “ganja” and “drugs”
  • Surveilling people without a warrant
  • Using custodial torture
  • Detaining people without charge

The investigation also found that the Telangana Police have used technology to violate people’s privacy, such as by using facial recognition software to track people’s movements.

These findings raise serious concerns about the state of human rights in Telangana. It is important for the state government to take steps to address these concerns and ensure that the Telangana Police respect the privacy and human rights of all citizens.

Telangana was ranked third among 18 states in the India Justice Report 2022, which analyses data on police, prison, judiciary and legal aid. It also had the best policing score as per the report. But the policing system in the state has been widely criticised for use of custodial torture and human right violations through preventive detention and violation of citizen privacy through technology and high-handed search operations.

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With the state Assembly elections scheduled for November 30, #Khabarlive examines how the system of policing has fared in Telangana under the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS)-led state government.

In the last three years, there have been three instances of custodial torture by the Telangana police. Two of them were women from marginalised communities.

Custodial torture

In August 2023, the LB Nagar police in Hyderabad’s Telangana was accused of torturing Laxmi, a Lambada (Scheduled Tribe, ST) woman. On her way back home from visiting a relative, Laxmi was illegally detained for an entire night on charges of soliciting which she denied. Her medical reports said she suffered severe contusions (bruises) on her thighs, back, forearms, and hands. 

Unlike Laxmi, Mariamma and Mohammed Khadeer Khan did not survive custodial torture. Ambadipudli Mariamma, a Mala (Scheduled Caste, SC) woman along with her 21-year-old son Uday was subjected to brutal violence by the Addagudur police under the Rachakonda commissionerate limits in June 2021. A resident of Chintakani in Telangana’s Khammam district, Mariamma was employed as a cook in the house of priest, Father Balashouri, who accused her of stealing Rs 2 lakh from his house. After the FIR was registered, a police official is alleged to have kicked Mariamma in her stomach. Mariamma soon fell ill and passed away. 

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Khadeer Khan, who was detained by the Medak police on charges of theft also experienced brutal torture at the hands of police. In a video statement which went viral, Khadeer described in graphic detail the alleged torture he was subjected to. “They hung me upside down for two hours and assaulted me. They beat me on my legs, hands… and all over my body. Now my hands and legs are not functioning,” he had said. His wife said that Khadeer suffered multiple fractures, dislocation of the spine and renal fracture. Khadeer eventually died on February 16 while availing treatment at Hyderabd’s Gandhi hospital. 

In August 2023, a group of civil rights activists submitted a representation to the Telangana State Legal Services Authority (SLSA), alleging that trans women were picked up, taken to the police stations where they were stripped, and then forced into “male clothes” bought with the money taken from them. Photographs of the arrested trans women wearing shirts and T-shirts also appeared on social media.

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While speaking to #Khabarlive, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) North Zone Chandana Deepthi stated that trans persons are people with “biological deformities”. The officer also said that they do not have “fully developed (genital) organs”, and/or are “not of any particular gender”, and have a “tendency of dressing up like women,” revealing a poor understanding of gender. 

Police crack-down, invasion of privacy

The cordon and searches have been an ongoing part of Telangana’s capital Hyderabad with police officials arguing that it is an attempt to monitor criminals and clamp down on crime. A cordon and search operation is one wherein police officials cordon off an area and search it either under the garb of catching criminals, clamping down on drugs or retrieving stolen property. 

Cordon and search operation is a controversial military exercise which was used by the Indian security forces in the early 1990s in the Kashmir Valley. After a pause, it was re-started in 2017. Such operations, termed as human rights violations by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, are also being carried out in Hyderabad by the local police, who cannot even claim they are dealing with terrorists on a daily basis. ■ #hydnews #khabarlive #hydkhabar