Coronavirus: the police force the blockade with blows and insults

An investigation was ordered into the death of a 49-year-old ambulance driver on Friday after he was allegedly beaten by police in Pune on suspicion of illegally transporting passengers in his vehicle during the shutdown.

Pimpri Chinchwad Additional Police Commissioner Ramnath Pokale confirmed that an investigation had been launched. The case came to light when the son of the ambulance driver, who was with him when the incident occurred, said they were detained at a naka toll and police officers assaulted his father. He claimed that they were allowed to proceed only after making a payment of Rs 3,000 to the police officers. The video of the crying man has now gone viral.

But it is not the only video of this type. Social media is flooded with images of police violence, drawing shock across the country, as they punish people for leaving their homes in closing. The Pimpri Chinchwad incident comes days after another viral video showed three police officers raining lathi blows on the soles of a child's feet while crying in pain and pity.

And in Badaun, migrant workers on their way back home were forced to crawl and do frog jumps along the way by police in UP.

While the blockade exempts essential services, there have been cases of police assault against journalists, delivery men, or those who venture to buy essential items.

Two police officers in Indore were suspended on Friday after hitting a TOI reporter who wanted to buy milk during the curfew break. According to the complaint filed with the police, health correspondent Antriksh Kar Singh was approached by ASI KC Parashar and agent Atul Sharma, who were in a private SUV.

Singh showed them his media ID card, noting that the Indore administration had exempted journalists from the curfew restrictions, but was nonetheless beaten by them. Elsewhere, those trying to buy groceries have had to deal with all of this. A 35-year-old man who bought milk for his three children in Kolkata died of cardiac arrest shortly after an alleged police beating on Wednesday.

Lal Swami's wife, Annu, alleged that the police beat him at the market and he collapsed when he got home. The police have denied any assault. The man's post-mortem report said he died of chronic diarrhea and cardiac arrest. However, Howrah Police Commissioner Kunal Agarwal ordered an investigation.

ADG (Meerut) Prashant Kumar said disciplining disobedient crowds is the biggest challenge in containing the spread of Covid-19. Sudhanshu Sarangi, police commissioner (Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack), argued that force was being used to ensure closure if people do not follow instructions and do not discipline themselves. If it's not brute force, the cops are humiliating people by making them rub their noses on the ground or do sit-ups. In a photo shared on Twitter, police officers are seen deflating the tires of a vegetable vendor's vehicle to keep it off the street. Patna's SSP Upendra Kumar Sharma admitted that he has received a large number of complaints against the police.

Two sanitation workers were beaten in town this week, while three officers were fired from service for allegedly shooting and injuring a mini-truck driver. Police officers admit that there is a lack of clarity and confusion about what constitutes essential and non-essential. For example, a man in Ranchi was mistreated on Wednesday when he went out to feed the dogs.

Similarly, in Mumbai, an event manager was beaten by police while taking his sick dog to a clinic. The police officer who hit him commented: Here people are dying of crown and you are worried about your pet. IG (Ranchi) and police spokesman Saket Kumar Singh said the arguments and disputes were the result of confusion about what is essential. Police officers have faced that situation for the first time, so there is a lack of clarity, he said. The public can now send videos to certain WhatsApp numbers if they are harassed by the police.

He has another solution: make those who roam the streets sit at the police station all day. The top ministers of at least two states have intervened, urging the police to cooperate with the people. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray ordered the police chiefs not to use force on those who go out to obtain essential products. In Punjab, CM Amarinder Singh posted on Facebook that excesses would not be tolerated. He said he was overshadowing the good work done by most.

(Contributions from Ashok Pradhan, Jaideep Deogharia, Rupak Banerjee, Debashish Karmakar, Ahmed Ali)

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