Acts of violence from police personnel during the lockdown come under scrutiny

NL Today

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Kathmandu: On Tuesday, a short video clip showing a policeman baton-charging a young woman went viral across social media platforms. In the video, taken in Nuwakot and originally posted on TikTok, the woman is seen arguing with the policeman, asking if the government has given him the right to beat her. It appears that he has baton-charged her before, and then in no time, he does it again.

Videos showing indiscriminate use of force by the police regularly make rounds across social media platforms in Nepal. The frequency has increased of late and it has led to a mass outrage against the police on social media. It has also raised questions on the morals of policing.

Take, for instance, this comment by Anuj Sharma on Twitter posted under the aforementioned video: “Another example that shows the majority of policemen don’t deserve any respect from the common people. She has the right to question! Appropriate action needs to be taken against that policeman who misused his authority for physical violence against women.”

“I think this type of behavior must be controlled,” another user, Yamraj, writes, “you can’t beat anyone until and unless it’s necessary to control difficult conditions.”

This was not an isolated incident. A week earlier, in Birgunj, Deputy Superintendent of Police Prahlad Karki was seen manhandling Afroz Ahamad, an employee at a surgical supplies store, in an incident that was caught on CCTV. The footage showed Karki and his team hitting and kicking Ahamad. This video was shared widely on social media and drew backlash for the police.

These acts of violence have had human rights activists aggrieved.

“Although the police are trained on respecting human rights, they are not taking it seriously,” Amrita Lamsal, author and human rights activist, told Nepal Live Today. “It is very sad to see that the ones who are supposed to ensure our rights are violating it.”

Lamsal added that the series of incidents where police are seen assaulting the general public not only violates human rights but also exposes the unprofessionalism that exists among police personnel.

While rights activists argue that such incidents risk undermining the police institution as a whole, psychologist Gopal Dhakal says such incidents fall into a gray area since the country is under a lockdown and the police are tasked with regulating the movement of people.

Videos showing indiscriminate use of force by the police regularly make rounds across social media platforms in Nepal. 

“The pandemic and the lockdown have created stress among the police as well and they might be having a hard time managing the people’s anger and irritation,” Dhakal said. “As a result, the usually healthy relationship between the police and the general public might have been disturbed.”

Spokesperson of Nepal Police SSP Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, however, declines to chalk up the acts of violence to the pandemic.

Kunwar squarely puts the blame of such incidents to the involved policemen alone. “Most of the time such incidents occur due to personal issues and failure in thinking responsibly,” he said. “Whatever the reason may be, the policemen are disallowed to indiscriminately assault the general public. The police department will take action against them.” 

Kunwar also cautioned that the incidents can’t be judged based on video clips available on social media platforms since “they just show one side of the story.” 

“I would like to request everyone to avoid blaming the entire police institution for an individual’s mistake,” he said.