Last week I received a disturbing video from an NGO that works with homeless children in the Jama Masjid area. It was of two burly policeman beating up a 15-year-old boy, Gufran in a park with sticks. Many people saw it happen, some managed to capture it on their phones so it cannot be dismissed as lies or exaggeration. The video clearly shows Gufran lying on the grass, being beaten by one cop while the other one watches. The boy’s playmates can be heard asking why the police are beating him, but get no answer. Unable to bear the pain of the beating, Gufran can also be seen to lose consciousness briefly. After I saw the video, I called Amit Sinha of Jamghat, the NGO with whom Gufran has been associated for several years. Here’s what he told me.
“On March 29, Gufran was playing cricket with his friends in the Meena Bazaar Park no. 5 near Jama Masjid,” he said. Suddenly, the boys saw that two policemen were beating up Gufran’s father, a street vendor of second hand clothing. The boy ran to defend his father, and the cops turned on him instead. “Gufran’s friends watched as the cops beat him up mercilessly,” narrated a visibly shocked Sinha. “After we were alerted of the incident at Aangan — our daycare centre in Jama Masjid — our staff went to register a case at the police station.”
At first, the police refused to register the FIR. With great difficulty, they finally managed to file the case. The police then exerted great pressure on Jamghat’s staff as well as the boy and his parents, to withdraw the case, saying that Gufran’s father was a known criminal. They added that unless homeless people like Gufran’s family cooperated with the police, life could become difficult for them. Not only did they hint that they could make it impossible for Gufran’s father to sell his wares on the street, the police also convinced others in the community to pressurise the family to withdraw their complaint. When this didn’t happen, the police took the boy for a medical check up to Lok Nayak hospital. They didn’t allow his parents or friends to accompany him and haven’t yet released the report doctors have given. “However, when Gufran came for the public meeting we held in Jama Masjid a few days later, he was still bruised, limping and visibly traumatised from his injuries,” said Sinha. “But we’re even more concerned about the effect this incident could have on his psyche…”
For everyone who knows Gufran, says he’s a steady, sensible boy who has just finished class XI from Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School Ajmeri Gate. “In the five years that he has attended our day care centre, Gufran has impressed us with his sharp mind and aspirations for a better life,” said Sinha. “Unlike other children who live on the street, Gufran doesn’t do drugs and really ever gets into fights with anybody.”
Over the years, Sinha and his friends at Jamghat have seen how hard it is for street children to enter the mainstream after years of abuse and marginalisation. The police have tried to justify their actions with the allegation that Gufran’s father is a known criminal. One wonders if that’s a valid justification for them to beat up a juvenile with no record of any involvement in any illegal activity, without provocation?
Today, Sinha is worried about Gufran’s future. “I don’t know what impact this incident will leave on the boy’s psyche…” he said. “What will happen to Gufran now?”