Deepak, in mid 20’s, recently started selling cucumbers near the Rivoli Cinema Hall in Connaught Place. “Two days ago, police destroyed my stall. Do the poor and homeless have right to work or even that is reserved for the privileged people?” he said.
“Police beat us when we steal or get involved in illegal activities. They also abuse us when we try to work hard and lead a good life. What should we do then?” he asked officials present at a meeting between homeless and Delhi Police, organised by NGOs – Centre for Holistic Development and Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath (SAM:BKS).
Another homeless, Devrati, complained that few days ago police had beaten up people sleeping on the footpath at night without any given reason. “But after the discussion now we know that we can also go to police and register our complaints,” she said.
According to NGOs, the purpose of the discussion was to establish one to one dialogue between homeless and police. “There has been a need of healthy communication so as to address the issue of police atrocity,” said Indu Prakash Singh, executive committee member, Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath. “We should organise a platform for such dialogue on a fixed date of every month. Both police and homeless should be given equal chances to put forward their views. Due to the lack of communication, there were many cases of police harassment,” Singh added.
A few destitutes complained that police often ask for identity card which they do not have. “Their applications for voter identity card is still pending with the Election Commission,” said Sunil Kumar Aledia, member of Centre for Holistic Development.
Laxman, a soda seller, said that a police constable had once demanded Rs 300 as ‘hafta’ from him. Police asking for protection money was the most common complaint.
Baban, in his fifties, complained that police takes him forcibly to the police station to clean the dirty, stinking lockups. “I am not paid for that. I was beaten up by cops over a family dispute. I feel betrayed as the people whom I served had beaten me mercilessly over a small fight within my family,” he said.