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India - unofficial flogging by police

Boys beaten in the street

Comment by C. Farrell

Unofficial CP by police in India: Seven clips. Clip 7 is New!

Judicial corporal punishment under the formal criminal law, once widespread in India under British rule, is thought to have been abolished in the mid-1950s. However, the law still tolerates tribal or feudal CP under local "traditional justice systems". But we have so far found no evidence that it allows the police to administer punishment of their own volition, which is what appears to be happening in these video clips.


This 2-minute news item from Times Now TV, an India-wide cable news channel (23 January 2007), reports from Ferozabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

    Two teenage boys, Amit and Shyam, were made to take their trousers down by police. They were then tied to a tree and beaten on the seat of their underpants with a big split or double stick, described by the reporter as a baton.

    The officer responsible, Jagmohan Tripathi, when confronted later by journalists, denied all knowledge of it, despite the fact that he had been caught on film administering the illegal punishment.

    The youths had been accused of kidnapping, but apparently the charges had not been brought to court.


IMPORTANT: This video material is Times of India Group copyright. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.


This scene was previously misclassified under Pakistan. In fact it is from a police station in Bhogpur in Jalandhar district, in the part of Punjab (East Punjab) that ended up in India in 1947.

    There is no sound. The culprit keeps his trousers on. The contents of his back pockets are emptied first. A policeman in uniform holds him face down on the floor while a colleague in civilian dress administers the special leather strap across the seat, four strokes from one side and then four strokes from the other. The strap has a wooden handle.

    A TV news programme (India Today, 28 Oct 2010) which showed (an inferior version of) this silent clip described the event as "a shocking case of police torture" and said that an investigation had been ordered. The recipient is described as a youth charged with fraud and cheating, from whom the police wished to extract a confession. See the slightly hysterical TV coverage at this external link.EXTERNAL LINK: opens in new window

    Note the modus operandi, involving the use of a leather "patta" held in both hands and brought down vertically across the buttocks of a recipient lying flat on the ground. The fact that this is so similar to many police CP scenes in the Pakistan part of Punjab, but has not so far been noted in any other part of either Pakistan or India, raises the intriguing possibility that this specific practice, with its specially-designed implement, dates from British rule before 1947, when the whole region was a single entity known as Punjab Province, which had its own law and practices.



Another scene in a police station. This time a cane is used, or to be more precise two long sticks being held together. This is described as "Raping punishment" but it looks more like an attempt to extract confessions than a punishment. There seems to be questioning going on, with the strokes of the "canes" depending on the responses. In the background a female voice is heard shouting -- possibly the complainant?

    There are two suspects, one in yellow and one in white. Both receive the caning across the seat of the trousers while standing upright, their arms held by assistants.



A police station in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, in April 2013. Three youths have been hauled in for "eve-teasing", i.e. sexual harassment of women. They are being dealt with summarily by women police, one of whom administers corporal punishment to (mostly) their backsides with some kind of strap. This does not appear to have much effect, and they carry on arguing, presumably to protest their innocence.



Three-minute film shot outdoors at, allegedly, Bhavnagar in Gujarat state in 2011. Plain-clothes police give a serious caning to five male offenders, who remain clothed. Most get 12 to 15 strokes. The first, third and fourth are disciplined while being held bent over a motorbike, the other two held by their arms while standing up. In a couple of cases, one or two of the strokes land on the legs but otherwise they are all aimed at the seat of the trousers. A second official joins in the caning at certain points, so a few of the strokes are double whacks, one from each side. The first miscreant is seen to clutch his buttocks when released. The final miscreant puts up a great struggle, illustrating the unsatisfactory nature of this modus operandi. The less random and more stable "bending over the bike" punishments seem to work better. There is a good deal of shouting throughout, seemingly both from the offenders and from those witnessing.



40 seconds of footage from a Dec 2013 news item by NTV Telugu News, showing police in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, whipping men in the street on their buttocks. The men appear to have been rounded up in the street amidst a commotion, but it is not clear why, or what the commotion is about. This is too random to count as proper corporal punishment. The implement used is, I think, the "lathi", a long stick meant for crowd control rather than CP. In these scenes its most enthusiastic exponent is a female police officer.


CLIP 7 OF 7 New!

In this two-and-a-half-minute clip, suspected malefactors are rounded up and caned by police in the streets of Indore, the biggest city in Madhya Pradesh, India. Some of this is too random and ad hoc to be described as proper corporal punishment, but in a few cases the alleged culprit is held firm by one officer while another administers systematic strokes to the buttocks with the big rigid stick that most Indian police seem to carry. Viewers may find some of these scenes harrowing.

In several places on YouTube, this film or other versions of it are described as depicting punishment for breaking fast during Ramadan in Pakistan. This is completely incorrect. The video has nothing whatever to do with Pakistan or Islam.


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