Mission Chabutra a violation of human rights, activist tells Hyderabad police

Hyderabad Desk

Hyderabad: Social activist SQ Masood has voiced concern regarding the recent and frequent operations of the city police’s Mission Chabutra on the pretext of preserving law and order and preventing crime.

In a letter addressed to the director general of police Ravi Gupta and city police commissioner K Sreenivasa Reddy, Masood termed these operations, in most cases, as a violation of human rights and troublesome.

“Activities such as ‘Cordon and Searches’, ‘Mission Chabutra’, and the ‘Counseling of Pedestrians’ have raised serious concerns in terms of their legality and ethicality. While I acknowledge that cordon and
searches operations have been partially halted, the continuation of practices like Mission Chabutra and the midnight counselling sessions are deeply troubling to the people,” the letter said.

Masood, in his letter, pointed out several instances where police officials have been caught on camera using abusive language or threatening young boys, especially during ‘Mission Chabutra’ in Old City areas.

On February 21, in a raid conducted by the city police, a senior cop scolded youngsters for staying late in a snooker parlour in Old City. 

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Pointing out the justification of police that the raids or detentions of young men often minors was because “their future is leading in danger, showing less interest in studies and becoming victims of criminal activities”, Masood said, “On the contrary, the presence of community members can prevent outsiders from performing crime.”

“The concept of Mission Chabutra is not only illegal and ineffective but also demonstrates a lack of understanding of police duties, which involve round-the-clock surveillance and crime prevention without unduly harassing law-abiding citizens,” he said.

According to Article 14 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, ‘which guarantees the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law’ as well as ‘enshrines the fundamental right to life and personal liberty’ respectively, Masood appealed to the Hyderabad police to perform their duties that confines the law and procedures with utmost respect for human rights and dignity.

“I request to conduct a campaign against drugs and ganja, by involving community, religious scholars, political and NGO representatives, social workers and educational institutions to raise awareness and establish vigilance groups within the community. The police can also organise awareness meetings in localities during the daytime, involving communities and educational institutions to effectively spread the
message to control crime and drug consumption,” Masood mentioned in his letter.

What is Chabutra?

Chabutra is a Hyderabadi slang referring to a platform or a pavement typically found outside houses. They are community spaces where residents come to relax or engage in everyday conversations.

However, young people, mostly men and teenage boys, hang out near the shopfronts till late night, leading to fights or even tragic events such as death.

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According to police, certain criminal incidents occur while young people sit on chabutras. The police also say that many young men, especially boys are misled into criminal activities. This “proactive approach”, they say, aims to prevent confrontations and altercations, reduce the likelihood of violence and ultimately preserve public safety.

Police ‘harassment’

In the name of ‘cleansing the society’, police harass young men and boys and put them in detention. However, most of these detentions, according to social activities, are clearly targetted on class, caste and religious identity.

“It is also concerning that Mission Chabutra is not a practice sanctioned by any law and has been a policing practice that has evolved with no oversights. The police personnel under the garb of this practice are regularly targeting teenagers and in the past have mercilessly hit them with lathis for no reason. The usage of lathis on teenagers and adolescents for merely being out in the streets is a grave violation of human rights,” Masood mentions in his letter.

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