Testimonial Therapy- A Path towards Justice


Published by

Documentation Support by

Torture, Abuse and Violence Testimonial Therapy- A path towards Justice Building Torture free Villages ENDNOTE 14 24 28 6


Torture, Abuse and Violence


he neo- liberal economic policies, which perpetuate exploitative economical, political and cultural system, have undoubtedly sharpened and exacerbated the perceptions among India's dalits, minority and tribals that their livelihoods, lifestyles and identities are under constant threat. Caste system and the predominantly patriarchal character of Indian society coupled with vast disparities in the distribution of wealth have accentuated the crisis had pushed the dalits, minority and tribals to the brink of disaster. The severe onslaught of communalism had further deepened the crisis. In India, the most heinous impact of caste based discriminations is starvation and malnutrition. The marginalised communities, especially dalits, tribals and minority confront acute poverty and starvation.

Indian Police trampling rule of justice

Torture and organised violence against the marginalised remains an entrenched and often routine law-enforcement strategy, despite India’s status as the world’s largest democracy. Dalits, Adivasis and other backward caste face atrocities and discrimination in all spheres of life. It verifies in the data collection of 361 survivors in the project under Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) and People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR), in which 89% of survivors belong to schedule caste, indigenous group and other backward classes (OBC). Considerable physical violence is inflicted on members of these deprived and marginalised communities as substantiated by official reports. Policing, far from being ‘the professional imposition of a coherent moral consensus on society’ is an intensely political activity with policemen often facilitating and participating in

77 the violence not just against these two communities but against minorities, other weaker sections and women. Police routinely fail to register cases under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which criminalises acts of violence and intimidation against members of scheduled castes and tribes that are committed by non-members. The Act carries greater sentences for offences already criminalised under the Indian Penal Code, such as murder and rape. According to Justice Ramaswamy, former Supreme Court judge and member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), police register complaints as Code offences instead of Act offences so high-caste perpetrators do not face the higher sentences imposed by the Act 144 Another police tactic is to register complaints of serious crimes under the Act’s provision criminalising insults and intimidation, which carries a lesser sentence. 1

Adivasis tortured by Orissa police in so-called anti-Maoist operation

There is a general impression, that poor dalits and tribals are not only do menial work in the society they also form the major source of churning antisocials and criminals. Unfortunately, a culture of silence has permeated in the society historically. The privileged people mostly believe and have made the state believe that they cannot go wrong. That is why one finds most of the custodial torture, and violence and death are committed against marginalised and deprived caste. Many dalits are tortured and subjected to humiliation and degrading treatment in public like garlanded with slippers and sandal, colouring black and white and riding over ass etc. So they have the divine right to use and abuse or discriminate against the dalits, tribals and other backward castes. Indian Police learnt from practice of caste system of demoralisation and community punishment. Demoralising the lower caste is very common with a view to make them silence, so that they cannot raise their voice. When a person from upper caste commits crime, after trial the person is punished. However when it comes to the lower caste the entire community is punished.

88 This punishment is not from court of law, but from the upper caste and the police provide its sound support in implementing punishment to lower caste. The refusal of the police to investigate a case of caste discrimination is common and they failed to register cases under Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 2 The SC/ST Act meant to ensure proper investigation by a high ranking police official within thirty days is rarely adhered to. As a consequence the accused moves out of the jail. Sometimes, different Human Rights Institutions like NHRC and National Commission on Schedule Caste are working as champion against above mentioned misdeed3

Adivasi girl’s body carried by security forces after raped and assaulted in Chhattisgarh

Reluctance on the part of the police to register and investigate crime makes the victim much more vulnerable. Police assumes that the victims cannot fight case for long and above all cannot pay bribe. By the time the victims fulfils either or both the conditions, evidence are destroyed or leading to “go cold,” which ultimately makes prosecution unlikely. Poor crime victims are also likely to be able to call local influential figure to intervene with police on their behalf, while their perpetrator may have police protection due to political connections. Minorities bear the brunt of the Communal Violence: India’s secular character provides the freedom to all the countrymen to choose their own religion, a right provided in the Article14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution. It also ensures that the state cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. However, in reality, things are different. The marginalisation of the Muslim community, the largest among the minority groups is complete. This has been corroborated by the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committees on Minorities in 2006, headed by Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar. Discrimination is compounded by hatred against Muslims has been initiated and spread by right wing fundamentalist Hindu groups under the patronage of a Bharatiya

99 Janata Party resulted in riots. Bhagalpur (1989), Bombay (1992-93) and Gujarat (2002) riots exposed the biased perception of police towards Muslims. Several committees investigating the riot cases have confirmed the dubious role of the police and other state apparatus.

Widespread torture of the Indian police over the minorities

The youth and the poor, perceived primarily as trouble making, violent groups were harassed and booked under draconian laws like Terrorism and Disruption Act (TADA) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) which provides sweeping power to security agency and completely denies civil and political right to the victim. Denial of access to justice is the single most important factor that alienates the Muslim and other minority, Dalit and tribal community from the mainstream. Seldom have human rights institutions and National Commission for Minorities, primarily constituted to address the violation of rights of the minorities have lived up to its constitutional mandate. The situation is characterised by a relative vacuum insofar as the issues of police torture or protection of human rights are concerned. In the report released in June 2012 report by Tata Institute of social sciences, the observation is that 36% of the jail inmates in Maharashtra are Muslims while the population of Muslims in state is close to 10.6%. The report was sponsored by the Maharashtra States’ Minorities Panel. The findings of the report are in conformity with the Sachar Committee report and general observation of Human rights activists. Most of the arrests of Muslim youth are prompted by the prevalent stereotype of ‘Muslims are criminals, terrorists’. These stereotypes are highly prevalent not only in society but also amongst the bureaucracy, particularly the police and amongst intelligence agencies. Many in the police force are totally in the grip of communal thinking and with their infinite power they unleash themselves against the Muslim youth at every conceivable opportunity. The rise of communalisation of society and more particularly after the coming up of

1010 the terrorism of Al Qaeda variety, the stereotypes about Muslims have worsened. One recalls that this type of terrorism was subtly brought up by United States for pursuing its goal of controlling the oil wealth. The attitude of authorities has become more anti minority and this in turn has undermined their professionalism and they are guided more by their biases than by the rules of law.

In Gujarat police colluded with Hindu mobs in killing and rampaging

There are multiple reasons for the Muslim youth being targeted by the state authorities. True, that some Muslim youth have fallen prey to the illegal activities due to the abject poverty which they have to suffer. Still the major reason for their being indiscriminately arrested by the police relates to the misconception regarding acts of terrorism and communal violence. The attitude of police remains as biased as before and in the day to day life they display this partisan behaviour. This biased attitude of state machinery, police and intelligence authorities in the main, has been ruining the life and careers of many a Muslim youth. The feeling of insecurity amongst the community as a whole is on the rise. This feeling of insecurity is crippling the possible growth of the community. Those implicated in such acts are also boycotted by the community and have faced immense personal, social and economic losses. It is time that the Human rights groups intensify their campaign to protect the innocent Muslim youth, the legal measures need to be strengthened whereby the police cannot exercise its biased attitude in arresting any Muslim youth. Measures are needed to ensure that policeintelligence agencies takes up more professional attitude overall and more particularly in the matters related to minority youth. The Government needs to wake up and apply the correcting measures Thus, in the context of the minority community, the key areas which need to be addressed are: a) While raising the issues of police torture and organised violence, there is a scant support. Palpable reluctance is observed among the Human

1111 Rights Defenders (HRDs) to work within the community where ‘culture of silence’ against perpetrators prevails and a threat of Hindu fascism looms large. PVCHR developed their programme for Muslim which focused on breaking the barriers of silence within the community and activating the state against the perpetrators; Ignorance among majority of the victims on how to approach the National Commission for Minorities and avail the benefits like free legalaid. No one ever monitors whether these facilities are ever used by the target groups or not; HRDs are lesser equipped with the information for monitoring national laws, international human rights instruments and mechanisms useful for crisis management; No networking among local human rights organisations coupled with absence of an active civil society groups fails to create a need-based campaign for legislative advocacy even among their elected community representatives; Resource crunch, notably materials, which greatly undermines the effectiveness of the work of human rights defenders


c) d)


Patriarchy reinforces by abusing, battering and discriminating women: Most women in India suffer directly or indirectly by the existing patriarchal structure of the society. They become either primary or secondary victims in all kinds of torture. In the RCT – PVCHR collaboration 27.64% women facing torture and organized violence were psychologically supported through testimonial therapy. In fact, Uttar Pradesh remains at the highest position on crime against women primarily due to rape, torture for dowry and harassment against women.4 Discriminatory and organised violence against women includes domestic violence, dowry linked violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment. All this are indicative of the extent of the problem and proves that human rights initiative in India lacks gender perspective of Torture and Organised Violence. Dalits are considered untouchable in Indian society, yet rape of dalit women is not considered forbidden by the upper caste, in fact, the later uses rape as an instrument of continuous subjugation. Dalit women bear a triple burden; discrimination and exploitation based on caste, class and gender. Women are also victim of violence by securities forces and armed opposition groups, traditional justice delivery system like Caste panchayat or Khaap panchayat, which imposes its writ through social boycotts and fines and in most cases end up either killing or forcing the victims to commit suicide. Discriminatory attitudes and lack of sensitisation to the dynamics of crimes involving sexual or domestic violence leave victims without critical police aid or redress to which they are entitled. 5


Domestic violence continues unabated..... The police attitude that domestic violence is primarily of private nature is the most unfortunate trivialisation of a grave social evil, that too when the police is empowered to arrest the perpetrator without a warrant. 6 The protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted to augment women’s immediate protection from violence through emergency relief, including access to temporary protection order and domestic violence shelters.7But lawyers and activists says that due to poor implementation of law, women facing imminent and life threatening violence remain hostage to police attitude. This attitude of the police perhaps stems from its traditional legacy of ‘rule of lords’ the same like its colonial masters. This is the common bonding between the police and the rural kulaks in India which do not believe in the concept of welfare state. Impunity in the Indian Police: Indian police and security officials who commit torture or inflict other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have long enjoyed impunity for their actions. Several provisions within the Indian Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and various national security related laws provide immunity to these officials. Section 197 of the CrPC allows for all-encompassing immunity by providing that the Central or State Government in question must grant sanction for the prosecution of any Government official or member of the armed forces alleged to have committed a criminal offence “while acting or purporting to act within the discharge of his official duty”.8The Supreme Court has upheld this provision 9 and has stated that even those who abuse their power are considered to be “acting or purporting to act” in their official position and thus enjoy immunity. 10 Other examples of immunity provisions in the CrPC include section 45(1), which specifically protects members of the armed forces from arrest without prior sanction for acts purportedly committed during official duty 11 and Section 132(1), which protects police, armed forces, and even civilians who engage in activities to help disperse crowds from prosecution without prior sanction. Similarly with respect to national security

1313 legislation, the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) provides immunity from prosecution barring government sanction for armed forces personnel purporting to act in the exercise of their powers, even while granting vast powers to, for instance, shoot and kill. 12

Indian police enjoys impunity

The insensitivity of the Judiciary and Human Rights Institutions makes it extremely culpable in contributing to ‘impunity’ that persists and aggravates the problem. Evidence indicates that the poor are increasingly being criminalised. The limitation of the enforceable power of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has been a matter of concern for everyone.
Extrajudicial Killing:

Police usually commit extrajudicial killing with impunity. Media and NGOs have documented hundreds of such killings but their efforts at accountability have been hampered by systematic police deniability. The absence of records, including in many cases a post-mortem examination or registry of arrest and detention, makes it very difficult to disprove the police’s account. Independent investigations are critical to reducing impunity, but despite the presence of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and their state counterparts, they are rare in much of India. Police investigations, either initiated by police or undertaken at the direction of external agencies, are often ineffective due to a “code of silence” that makes police unlikely to disclose incriminating evidence.


Police commit extrajudicial killing with impunity

In the absence of an independent investigation, officers who issue illegal orders or pressure subordinates to carry out abuses can lay the blame exclusively on their subordinates. Criminal prosecution has the potential to check police abuse, but victims often do not file cases because they fear police retaliation. Another major obstacle is section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which provides immunity from prosecution to all public officials unless the government approves the prosecution. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has the authority to recommend an independent investigation either by another division of the local police or by the Central Bureau of Investigation, but this often results in the police effectively investigating it. Even where this is done with integrity, the process does not have the appearance of independence and impartiality, leaving victims and families suspicious of the process.


Testimonial Therapy- A Path towards Justice


hallenging the impunity through breaking the silence, which aims to eliminate the fear, phobia, hopelessness and enables empathetic, safe and secure environment for the survivors. Survivors are psychologically, social and legally supported through Testimonial Therapy. It transforms survivors into human rights defender/barefoot worker imbued the concept of justice, democracy, non – violence and human dignity Where torture is perpetrated, there are few resources for the provision of therapeutic assistance to the survivors. The testimonial method represents a brief cross-cultural psychosocial approach to trauma, which is relatively easy to master. The method was first described in Chile in 1983 and has since been used in many variations in different cultural contexts.

Ram Lal Patel, a torture victim psychologically supported through testimonial therapy

Testimonial method has been supplemented by culture-specific coping strategies, namely, meditation and delivery ceremony. A pilot training project was undertaken between Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture victims (RCT) in Copenhagen, Denmark in collaboration with People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR) in Varanasi to investigate the usefulness of the testimonial method. The project involved the development of a community-based testimonial method, training of twelve PVCHR community workers, the development of a manual, and a monitoring and evaluation system comparing results of measures before the intervention and two to three months after the intervention. Twenty-three victims gave their

1616 testimonies under supervision. In the two first sessions the testimony was written and in the third session survivors participated in a delivery ceremony. Findings from the Testimonies of the Survivors of Torture: Following findings have emerged out of the testimonies of the torture victims: (a) It is immensely difficult for an ordinary citizen to negotiate with the unbridled power and absolute impunity enjoyed by the security agencies and law enforcement agencies to get justice;

PVCHR record testimonies of torture victims, mostly of

dalits, adivasis

(b) The court process is cumbersome and exorbitant and human rights institutions have limited mandate, the poor victims confront limited scope to access to justice; (c) Belief in 'masculinity' and 'body capital' are also reflected in the form of 'brutal nature' of forces; (d) Majority of the detainees are poor, marginalised and people from religious minorities charged with either unnecessary or unjustified sections. (e) If one tries to abjure violence and lead a normal life particularly, in conflict area, there is no scope for initiating process of social reconstruction and coexistence; (f) As the state is abdicating its responsibilities and outsourcing legislative initiatives to non- state actors, such as business houses and multinational companies, it will be futile to expect that door of justice will be closer to poor. (g) Growing urgency to address 'right to health' for victims in detention; Present systems of governance hardly conform to the UDHR's language and ideology Why Testimony: The testimony (truth telling and emotion-pain sharing of survivors) is a short psychological approach to trauma. Significance of truth is an important aspect of the justice process. Testimony is located within the broad framework of

1717 social construction and provides valid information of human rights violation without humiliating the witness. It has often resulted in the survivors overcoming depressive symptoms and cope with difficult situation. Survivors rediscover self worthiness and dignity. Regaining self esteem by recording their stories in a human rights context, private pain is reframed with a political meaning. Compilation and analysis of information emerging from testimonies indicates the rights abuse in the originating country and helps in initiating advocacy measures for institutional reform.

Folk school empowering survivors of torture in Pindra block of Varanasi

It has played an important role as a central mechanism in the functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, studying suppressive symptoms of the traumatised Bosnian Kosovo refugees, treatment of traumatised asylum seekers in Netherlands, rural community in Mozambique with survivors of prolonged civil war, traumatised Sudanese adolescent refugees in United states and also used for injured humanitarian aid workers who had survived the bombing of the UN Headquarters in Iraq. In India it has acquired psycho-legal form that emphasises on denunciation of human rights violation and initiates advocacy for justice People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) uses testimony as a psycho-legal instrument for strengthening access to justice for the survivors. PVCHR is using it in its own separate cultural contexts.

Components of Testimony: Testimony involves three components:

1818 a) Private: Psychological rehabilitation of the survivor leads to certain degree of restoration of physical and mental state. This opens the possibility of his/her participation in a community movement and ultimately becoming a human rights defender; b) Legal: Testimonies provide a lot of subjective information about the plight of the victim which help the court to take into account when the bail application of the victim is considered. The human sufferings are never recorded in the court proceedings. However, these small references of human sufferings often go in favour of the victim in front of the well prepared perpetrator; c) Political: Under testimonial therapy, public ceremonies are organised to honour the survivors of torture. These ceremonies provide an opportunity to bring back the survivor to the same society/ community that has isolated him/her for being tortured. Testimonies are read out in the presence of the villagers, invited guests, local politicians, elected representatives and local media creating debate and discussion at the local level because it contains human sufferings, institutional malpractices and failure of constitutional guarantees. Testimonies can be used as urgent appeals and advocacy work. Campaigns can be initiated by ‘psychological mapping’ of the evidence of the severe effect of torture on large number of people. Considering the difficulties in getting the state’s approval for visiting and monitoring the detention centres under the police, para military forces and the military across the country, these testimonies are great source of primary data for research work. Organisations following developments relating to use of testimony emerging out of torture and organised violence can help building foundation for people’s movement. Healing elements of the Testimony Method: • Survivors regain self-esteem and dignity by recording their story in a human rights context: the private pain is reframed and takes on a political meaning; • Stressful events are integrated by helping the survivor to reconstruct the fragmented story so that it becomes a coherent narrative, which is balanced and contains both “hard” and “soft” elements of the story; Survivors are exposed to the fear experienced during the stressful event. Re-experiencing this fear in a safe, supportive and meaningful context can help the survivors understand their present emotional reactions and diminish anxiety and stress reactions; 13 Survivors understand how present thoughts and responses have developed and how certain situations (e.g. seeing a policeman) might trigger the fear response;

1919 • By adding a mindfulness meditation component to the testimony method, stress and anxiety is further reduced, and awareness about harmful and healing thoughts is encouraged. Moreover, meditation is an important part of Indian tradition. Testimony Therapy – its relevance:
When a legal testimony is taken for use in court proceedings, the community worker or

human rights defender may notice that a survivor is suffering from serious psychosocial and emotional problems. In this case, it might be relevant to refer the survivor for testimony therapy. • • The survivors referred for testimony therapy must be men and women who are more than fourteen years old; The survivors can be primary or secondary victims of Torture and Organised Violence. Often the secondary victims are female and have been beaten and abused by the police while the primary victims were arrested. Often they are more psychologically affected than the primary victims;

Referral is not advised if: • The survivor suffers from severe depression or other psychotic symptoms. In this case, the survivor should be referred to a psychiatrist14 • • If the survivor is active in a self-healing process of political or human rights activism; If the survivor is not motivated for therapy

A staff member with a medical, psychological or social work background should evaluate referrals for testimony therapy and pass the referrals on to trained community workers or human rights defenders. Who takes the Testimonies? It is only possible to use the testimony method with survivors of torture if they have a complete trust in the therapists. Therefore, the therapists must be part of an organisation, which the survivors already know and in which they have faith. This will most likely be a human rights organisation, which has already made legal testimonies with the survivors and supported them in their fight for legal justice and reparation. • The testimony therapy is performed by two persons (“therapists”), with one acting primarily as the interviewer, while the other is the note-taker. • They act as co-therapists, supporting each other in the elaboration of the testimony. The therapists can be community workers, human rights defenders on the grassroots level, or social workers based in a central location. Therapists should have the minimum of a high school

2020 education, plus three years of field experience. All must have been trained in testimony therapy. • For testimonies with female survivors, the therapists (and possibly interpreter) should be female. Usually therapists of both genders can take testimonies with male survivors except for cases of sexual torture. · In some parts of India, an interpreter may be required, who - in that case – must also be trained in the testimony method. The therapists must come from another village than the survivor. The testimony should be taken in a secluded place, which is chosen by the survivor. It might be in the home of the survivor or in a community centre

• •

Workshops popularising Testimonial Therapy: To launch the testimonial therapy in India, between 2008 and 2009, five involving different human rights groups, in which 75 community workers and human rights activists were trained. In the workshop held in June 2008, the first manual on the testimony method was developed by the PVCHR in Varanasi. In a follow up to the workshops, PVCHR organised 10 testimony ceremonies within the research period, in the form of: (a) Public demonstrations in front of government headquarters; (b) ‘Peoples Tribunals,’’ that is, hearings bringing attention to critical human rights issues; (c) Community meetings in villages; (d) ‘‘Folk School’’—popular schools for the poor and marginalised— meetings, and (e) Street plays and singing programmes. Village Community Ceremony: The ceremony are organised for survivors of torture or organised violence, women and men, who suffer police torture or organised violence. The ceremony is held in a symbolic location, in which people had previously been victimised by local police. The PVCHR has used this location for several honour ceremonies, just as it was organised in Raup village of Sonebhadra district, symbolising a ‘‘success story’’ for tribal people. In 2001, the villagers belonging to Ghasia tribe put up a brave front against the unbound savagery of police Facing brutality and destruction of ‘life sustaining’ resources, which led to death of 18 children due to malnutrition. Post to that, within a span of few years, they have stood up unfalteringly and had brought a perceptible change in their living condition ably guided by PVCHR and erected a memorial for those who died. The ‘guests of honour’ and key actors spearheading the ceremony were the key functionaries of the PVCHR, who gave an introductory speech, a local representative from the municipal ward, workshop trainer and the human rights workers who had taken the testimonies

2121 from the survivors. Also present were representatives of three local dailies. The audience consisted of villagers and survivors who had been honoured in previous ceremonies. In addition, around 300 people from 10 surrounding villages attended the ceremony. The programme started with a ‘‘Karma dance’’ in honour of the holy Karma tree, which symbolises for fortune and good luck. Two villagers played the drums, and the villagers sang two ‘‘testimonial’’ songs that they often use to express their suffering.

Village Community Ceremony for torture victims

The villagers appeared visibly moved by this performance as evidenced by their attentive body posture and sad facial expressions. The human rights workers then read out a summary of the five survivors’ testimonies and gave the documents to the survivors who were also presented with the traditional white shawl and a flower garland, symbols of purity and honour. PVCHR functionaries took photographs while the testimony documents were given to the survivors by one of the key persons, and survivors were also photographed holding their testimony documents. The programme ended with a vote of thanks and paid homage to the memorial. The next day, local dailies carried stories about the event, thus reinforcing the sense of collective and official recognition of the villagers’ suffering. The trainer held a group discussion with the survivors, few months after the ceremony in which they said that they no longer were scared or fearful, as it was before the therapy, and that they felt more connected to their families and the villagers. They also felt that their dignity had been restored. One of them added that, as a result of the therapy, she had started to support and counsels other survivors. Another survivor believed that he had become ‘abrasive’ to the authorities as he no longer was submissive as expected towards the police. Many of them narrated a reduction of phobic symptoms. A discussion group for the staff and functionaries of the NGO was held on the same occasion. They emphasised that survivors who had completed testimonial therapy had made positive change in social functioning, increased their capacity to support others and had become less distressed. They also underlined the importance of preparing

2222 survivors for public exposure, which he or she would experience during the ceremony. ‘Breaking the Silence’ Impoverished and defenceless adivasis, dalits, women or those belonging to minority communities are subject to humiliation or torture in India. Sometime this happens to them as an individual or the entire group or community remains at the receiving end of torture. This is done both physically and psychologically to disintegrate them as an individual, so that they stop living like a normal human being. Torture is used by the prevalent exploitative social structure and institutions as an instrument of social control that takes the dignity away from the poor.

Honour Ceremony to rehabilitate Jagesari, a victim of organised violence

PVCHR, since its inception in 1996, has been working to ensure basic rights for the marginalised and the vulnerable sections in the Indian society, especially dalits, adivasis, minorities, children and women to create a human rights culture based on democratic values. While working in one of the most traditional, conservative and segregated regions in India, PVCHR has taken up the onerous task of developing ‘torture free’ model villages in Robertsganj block of Sonebhadra district, in Tanda block of Ambedkar Nagar district and in Pindra and Badagaon blocks of Varanasi district. By adopting testimonial method, it has been empowering the Musahars, Ghasia tribe and minorities, through trainings and information campaign, PVCHR has been putting up a front against impunity of the violators. The pain and the agony expressed in the testimonies have helped to inform and convince the judiciary and human rights institutions about the injustice committed against the marginalised and vulnerable sections of the society.

2323 In the villages of Pindra and Badagaon blocks in Varanasi district, Musahars (rat eating community), who are at the lowest rung among the dalit community, live in most deplorable conditions. Musahars vehemently raised their voice and fought relentlessly against the British colonialists. Due to their consistent opposition, the police under the British Raj branded Musahars as ‘criminal tribe’. When a crime is committed, men or women belonging to this nomadic tribe are nabbed and pushed behind the bars. Police personnel in Phulpur police station at Varanasi district have adopted an ingenious method to hide its inefficiency. Whenever it fails in nabbing the real culprit, then it catches the innocent Musahar villager and fabricates false cases against them. It has been continuing for many years. The nexus of police-local mafia-local administration has been assiduously trying to browbeat the poor Musahars into submission and incarcerate them on trumped up charges. Imprisoned Musahars are forced by prison officials to do all the menial work, be it cleaning the latrines or sweeping the floors. In this backdrop, PVCHR have been trying to build awareness among the Musahars. PVCHR has been arduously trying to put before the policymakers, their story of torture and trauma. It had been extending legal support to the victims of torture by adopting testimonial therapy as a specific therapeutic technique for the torture victims. The aim of the testimony is to facilitate integration of the traumatic experience and restoration of self-esteem among the torture victims. It had lent them its helping hand in building up their organisation so that Musahars are empowered in putting up a brave front against false implication and unjustified incarceration. When the things have started taking place, police personnel in Phulpur police station now see the Musahars as enemies and target only few among them. Now the numbers have dwindled and police are not able to falsely implicate Musahars on false charges and police posted at Phulpur police station are trying to shift to other place. PVCHR had been raising voice against impunity and had been trying to break the culture of silence. The Ghasiya or sometimes pronounced Ghasia tribe in Sonebhadra Mirzapur and Chandauli districts, seem to have been born with a burden – poverty. Though a tribe, but they have given Scheduled caste status. They are one of a number of tribal communities found in the hilly region of southern Uttar Pradesh, in particularly Mirzapur and Sonebadhra. Their traditions refer to a time when they were rulers, but over time lost their position, and took to cultivation. Ghasia tribals live in various blocks of the Sonebhadra district about 300 of them are concentrated in Raup village. They have no land, and not even safe source of drinking water. Their children do not go to school and they are deprived of even basic facilities. The tribe lost 18 children in 2001 due to hunger and malnutrition. These children died consuming wild and poisonous grass, wild mushrooms and poor quality of rice due to acute poverty. Besides poverty, the tribe also faces police atrocities and administrative apathy.

2424 The members of Ghasia tribe of Raup village were once honoured by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, the present UPA Chairperson as there invited at Teen Murti House on November 24, 1986. But later on they were forced into virtual extinction due to poverty and administrative apathy. 15 Fear was looming large over the Ghasia ghetto of Raup village in Sonebadra district due to police brutalities. Phool Chand, a Ghasia tribes recalled, “In 2001 some policemen asked me to arrange two girls to satiate their carnal desire. When I showed my inability to fulfill their carnal desire, they thrashed me so hard that my bone broke. All the men and women were beaten mercilessly by the men in Khaki.” Not only Phool Chand but the entire group of over 55 families has to face ire of the police. Hanshu, another youth belonging to Ghasia tribe showed his deformed leg and said, “Many of the villagers living in Raup village were incapacitated physically due to police brutalities.” Many of those from Ghasia tribe like Phoolchand, Babunder facing police torture or organised violence are psychologically, social and legally supported through Testimonial Therapy. Trained therapists, who took the testimonies of the survivors of torture and organised violence in Sonebhadra district, were able to free the Ghasia tribe from fear and discrimination. Not only Phool Chand, Babunder but 55 families living in Raup village faced the police savagery. But after constant advocacy, now the Ghasia’s put up a brave front against any repression. The martyrs’ monument and the honouring ceremonies of the torture victims have a far reaching impact. It had helped them to convert their agonies into strength. .

Building Torture-free Villages


ith an avowed mission of creating people-friendly ‘torture free villages’, PVCHR launched its campaign in the villages of Badagaon and Pindra block of Varanasi district, Tanda block of Ambedkar Nagar district, Robertsganj block of Sonebhadra district, Domchach block of Koderma district in Jharkhand. The thrust is on the building up local organisations of vulnerable and marginalised sections. In some of the

2525 villages a community centre has been established, forming the base for development activities. People are actively engaged in community- based counseling, in the form of “Folk Schools”, one of the core activities in the model villages. In community meetings of the Folk Schools people testify about their suffering and receive support from the group. Folk Schools also deal with conflicts with the village head or experiences of torture. Special forums for women focus primarily on health, but sometimes include such things as dowry issues. The statements of the villagers are recorded and their demands are forwarded to administration and governments.

Honour ceremony for a survivor of torture and organised in Pindra block

“Initially, building up rapport with the torture victims was quite an arduous task. Rather, the response from the victims was quite lukewarm. Seeing their psychological and physical turmoil they were undergoing after their release, we did not lose patience. The victims opened up after regular sittings and close interactions spanning 4 to 5 months. We as therapists record the stories of torture victims, which regain their self-esteem. It is only possible to use the testimony method with survivors of torture if they have a complete trust on us”, said Chhaya Kumari, who works as a Model Block Co-ordinator, Badagaon block, PVCHR-RCT project. Shiv Pratap Choubey, who works as a Model Block Co-ordinator at the villages in Pindra Block said, “PVCHR through capacity building workshops had developed a trained staff on testimonial therapy. In the villages for therapeutic healing of the survivors of the torture we use communication materials such as posters, pamphlets and wall writings. The survivors of torture get direct support through testimonial therapy. Community based honour ceremonies and folk school are organised to foster community awareness and empowerment of survivor of torture in model blocks. We take the consent of the survivor of torture, to use the honour ceremony for advocacy against impunity and to

2626 obtain justice. Then Interface with the police department, human right institutions, policy makers and media is planned.”

Empowering the survivors of torture in Folk School

Villages falling within the jurisdiction of Pindra and Badagaon blocks of Varanasi district, PVCHR earmarked it for the psychotherapeutic healing of the victims of police torture. “In the ten villages of each block, the condition of the Musahars is quite dismal. Musahar hamlet in these villages is at extreme corner, devoid of all basic needs of live. Majority of them are languishing in penury. Earlier to our intervention, men and women belonging to Musahar were falsely implicated and pushed behind the bar. Police personnel in Phulpur police station proved to be real ‘goons in uniform’ having strong nexus with upper and intermediary caste criminals and corrupt district officials, caught innocent Musahars villager and fabricated false cases against them. Insensate, corrupt and inefficient police personnel were hiding their inefficiency or were fuelled by money by the real culprits. It has been continuing for many years altogether,” said Upendra Kumar, Manager, Model Block, PVCHR Further, he said, “Through the relentless effort by our band of functionaries and staff trained in taking testimonies and developing the stories, we have been trying to build awareness among the Musahars. The testimonies are the stories of torture and traumatic experience of the poor villagers.” “These testimonies highlight the glaring systemic loopholes affecting the future of citizens of the country. Majority of the innocent villagers who faced unjustified incarceration are illiterate, so naturally they do not understand when they sign legal documents. In the age of long drawn, expensive judicial process, most of them do not have resources to pay for the bail bond and continue to languish in jail,” said Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Executive Director, PVCHR

2727 “Even after 65 years of Independence, the state has not been able to establish a scientific investigation process. Lack of investigative manpower from the field of forensic and medicine limits the fairness of trial. Investigation report of a ‘Daroga’ who is often selected for the job on the basis of a minimum educational qualification and physical fitness is considered as the entry point of the trial. Impunity enjoyed by the state apparatus is an important factor that perpetuates the crimes in custody. Complaints against such perpetrator often results in acquittal as the accused person manages to influence all forms of departmental or judicial investigation against him,” added Dr. Lenin. In the torture-free villages, strategy is focusing on survivors and advocating for reforms with interlinked activities:  Testimonial Testimonial Therapy  Seeking Legal Redress  Building Solidarity  Advocacy for Institutional Reform In its endeavour to build torture-free model villages, PVCHR had extended legal support to the survivors of torture and organised violence. Testimonial therapy adopted in the villages earmarked for its intervention, facilitates integration of traumatic experience and restoration of self-esteem among the torture victims. One-to-one interactions, meetings and dialogues in Folk Schools had empowered the Musahars in the villages of Varanasi district, Chamar community in Ambedkar Nagar district, Ghasia tribe in Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh, tribals and dalits in Koderma district of Jharkhand. There is a slight change in the attitude of oppressors, police and upper caste. As in Varanasi and Sonebadra districts, the numbers of false cases in the villages earmarked for intervention have started dwindling. Now, the police is shifting to other places for its ‘lawless and gangster’ activities. Those who were falsely implicated and faced unjustified incarceration, through community- based counseling in Folk Schools they are turning into Human Rights defenders. The synergetic effect of the testimonial therapy with folk school at villages and colonies in urban locations is breaking the censorship to challenge the impunity. The testimonial therapy has been integrated into a unique advocacy and educational model within which “torture free” model villages are organised and empowered to protect and expand basic human rights, and to fight against impunity of the violators. The pain and the agony expressed in the testimonies have helped to inform and convince the judiciary and human rights institutions about the injustice committed against the plaintiff. It is easier to elicit a coherent story from survivors and it effectively help to release their pain during narration of the suffering of being tortured.

2828 In its endeavour to create ‘torture-free’ model village, is employing traditional source of media and new media in achieving their goal for combating torture and to eradicate discrimination in Indian society. It had successfully employed the new information traditional and non-traditional technologies. PVCHR receives, responses and highlights the cases of human rights violations using different media tools which includes, blogs , phone, SMS, e-news, facebook , google group and various alternative media such as www.visfot.com,www.newzfirst.com. PVCHR submits petition to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) through email. In addition, PVCHR presents human rights violation cases on YouTube, blogs, and twitter. The PVCHR had spread the testimonial campaign in Manipur with Wide Angle, in Assam with Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, in Karnataka with SICHREM and in Uttar Pradesh, especially in Purvanchal and Bundelkhand region collaborating with Institute of Social Development Trust. We have trained over 50 human rights defenders and community worker in 5 Training of the Trainers workshops and developed manual “Giving Voice” different cultural context for the south India and north – east India in their own local language.



3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Justice Ramaswamy, “Attitude and Approach” unpublished paper presented at judge colloquium organized by NHRC and HRLN, December, 2005 quoted in National Campaign on Dalits Human Rights, “Shadow Report to the UN CERT 2007 Schedule castes and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1995, sec. 3. For the discussion of this provision see Human Right Watch, Broken People: Caste Violation against India’s untouchables (New York”: Human Right Watch 1999). Police fail to register FIR under Act is due both to bias and lack of familiarity with the Act. See also Human Right Watch, Hidden Apartheid: caste discrimination against India untouchables. www.scribd.com/.../National-Human-Rights-Commissions-intervention-in-case-ofpolice-firing http://ncw.nic.in/ National Commission for Women, “Course curriculum on Gender Sensitisation of Judicial Personnel” April 2009 Section 498 A, Indian Penal Code Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 Sec. 22 – 27 Code of Criminal Procedure [hereinafter ‘CrPC’], 1973, Section 197, available at: http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/CrPc/s197.htm. See, e.g., Matajob Dobey v. H.C. Bhari, 1956 AIR 44.

10. See, e.g., State v. B.L. Verma (1997) 10 SCC 772. 11. CrPC, Section 45(1). 12. See, e.g., Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, available

at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,NATLEGBOD,,IND,3ae6b52a14,0.html

13. See Schauer, M., Neuner, F. & Elbert, Th. (2005). Narrative Exposure Therapy: A

Short-Term Intervention for Traumatic Stress Disorders after War, Terror, or Torture. Gottingen: Hogrefe Verlag. 14. Sometimes secondary victims (mostly widows) of custodial death appear to be depressed – it is expected of them by society – but they are in fact not depressed in the clinical sense of the word. Women in sorrow must be referred to women’s support groups and “glamorised”.
15. The Times of India, December 20, 2009


About Author

Tarun Kanti Bose is an Independent Writing & Editing professional, whose ear is on the ground. He writes on the issues of critical importance and has been part of many of the social and political struggles. He has conducted many in-depth research ranging from Murishidabad’s starving masses, globalisation and Varanasi weavers, mining in Rajasthan, tribal struggles in Sonebhadra, uranium radiation and Jaduguda’s tribals, to mention a few. He conducts media workshops and harnesses the skills, especially of children, women and activists with a purpose to create a band of barefoot journalists in the rural hinterland and small towns so that they develop their own independent media vehicles.