By Aashika Ravi
Eight months on, the horrors of the Kathua rape case continue. In a gross misuse of power and violation of human rights, Talib Hussain, the Gujjar lawyer and activist as well as a key witness in the case, has allegedly been subjected to custodial torture after he was booked on charges of rape and domestic violence.
Hussain has been the face of protests for justice for Asifa, but to say that he has been treated inhumanly in the past week for his involvement in the case would be an understatement.
In June, his estranged wife filed a case against him for domestic violence and dowry harassment, but he was granted anticipatory bail by the J&K High Court. A little over a week ago, Hussain was arrested on charges of rape levelled by a relative, and was booked under section 376 (rape) and 4/25 Arms Act in accordance with the Ranbir Penal Code, the criminal code used in J&K. Unlike the recent arrest of Satish Uke, petitioner in the Judge Loya case for land fraud that was allegedly committed 17 years ago, these allegations are true. But it still does not explain or justify Hussain’s current condition (courtesy the J&K police).
Reports have emerged that Hussain was tortured while in custody at the Samba police station. According to what his family told The Wire, he was assaulted brutally two days ago.
“When lunch was being served, two civilians in the police station assaulted him. They repeatedly banged his head against the wall. The policemen present there, instead of protecting Talib, joined in the assault. They beat him severely,” a member of his family said.
When it was found out that he had been taken to a local hospital, a relative of Hussain’s said that people at the hospital had told them about his condition. “He was covered in blood when he was brought. His head was badly smashed and there were other injuries too.” He said.
Meanwhile, the J&K police have a completely different (and largely unbelievable) story to tell. According to what Director General of Police, S P Vaid told The Scroll, he hit his head “out of frustration.”
According to Greater Kashmir’s sources, “At around 1415 hours, Talib refused to have lunch at the lockup claiming it was not worth consuming and started hitting his forehead against the walls of the lockup, thus injuring him. Accordingly, he was taken to district hospital Samba for treatment and later booked for attempting suicide within the lockup.”
The police registered a case against Talib Hussain under Section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of the RPC.
The reactions to the incidents have been polarized, to say the least. While human rights defender Natasha Rather and SC advocate Indira Jaising have expressed their outrage, academic and writer Madhu Kishwar called Hussain “a hardened criminal” in her tweet and Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala’ ran a headline that said, “Deewar se apna sir phod, Talib Hussain ne kiya drama.” (By hitting his head on the wall, Talib Hussain did drama.)
While the outrageous police brutality is in violation of multiple human rights and goes against everything a democracy stands for, a positive development could emerge.
Yesterday, Hussain’s family approached the SC with a petition through senior advocate Indira Jaising which claims that Hussain has suffered “third degree torture of the worst kind, which has caused life-threatening injuries.” And now, a bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee will be hearing the plea today.