A medico-legal examination submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 22 February found that Shiv Kumar, a Dalit labour-rights activist and president of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, faced severe custodial torture at the hands of the Haryana Police. The court had directed a medical examination in a plea by Kumar’s father, Rajbir, which accused the police of illegally detaining the activist on 16 January, when he was participating in the farmers’ protests in the state’s Sonipat city. The report which was conducted by experts from Chandigarh Government Medical College and Hospital found that Shiv Kumar had multiple fractures, broken nail beds, several injuries and psychiatric symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rajbir’s petition sought an independent investigation into his son’s detention and custodial torture. Only on 20 February, over a month after his detention and while undergoing his medical examination in Chandigarh, was Kumar allowed to meet his family or Harinder Deep Singh Bains, his lawyer. Rajbir told me that the police did not allow the family to meet Kumar before this to hide the fact that he had faced severe torture. Kumar was formally arrested on 23 January, on the basis of three different first information reports that also name Naudeep Kaur, another MAS activist who was arrested, and has accused the police of custodial violence. Kumar’s family found out about his arrest only on 31 January.
On 20 February, a board of eight senior doctors who were nominated from GMCH Chandigarh found that Kumar had faced severe physical and mental violence. The board was led by Dasari Harish, the head of department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, and included Ashwini Soni, an assistant professor of Orthopaedics, Mandeep Singh, an assistant professor of General Surgery, Nidhi Chauhan, an assistant professor of Psychology and Sandeep Moudgil, an assistant professor of Radio, alongside the HODs of Orthopaedics, General Surgery and Psychology.
The medico-legal examination detected at least four different fractures suffered by Shiv Kumar including those in the left hand, right foot, and two possible fractures in his left foot and right wrist. The psychiatric evaluation in the report added, “Overall, evaluation is suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder like symptoms.” It mentioned that Kumar, “appeared sad and distressed with occasional crying spells.” It continued, “He expressed preoccupation with his current situation, reported predominant anxiety symptoms, flashbacks of brutality meted out to him, nightmares, feelings of loneliness, uncertainty about future and sleep disturbances.”
The general physical examination notes that Kumar was “walking with a limp with blackish discoloured areas on both thighs and swelling or tenderness in both feet.” It adds, “Nail beds of right 2nd and 3rd toe are broken, and underlying skin is reddish in colour and showing healing changes. Left big toe shows blackish discoloration. Nails of left thumb and index finger show bluish black discoloration with tenderness and tenderness over Right wrist.” The report continues, “All the injuries on the person of the patient are more than 2 weeks old and were caused by blunt object/ weapon.” This makes it tough to clearly establish whether Kumar was beaten in police custody, judicial custody or when he had been illegally detained. But his father’s petition states that Kumar was beaten both while he was illegally detained and when in police custody.