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Yesterday in Delhi: police brutality & corruption?

India is a fascinating place, to say the least. I’m so unsure of what I think of this country both culturally and politically. So much is so different, yet sometimes familiar and I’m conflicted.

Yesterday, in the Paharganj area of Delhi, I was witness to something I’ve heard is commonplace, but was unsettling, frustrating, and lots of other things. I don’t really know what to think. Either way, I think it’s important to know and see that every country, every place can and does have a dirty side.

I should add…this didn’t happen to me. I was just a bystander. I also don’t know anything about Indian law, politics, government, police or hotel management. What I know is what I’ve seen (but not heard: I don’t speak Hindi).

Here’s what happened. I met up with another traveler and met him, ——, for breakfast. After a delicious breakfast in a peaceful oasis of the Paharganj area of Delhi, we went back to ——’s hotel so he could meet up with his brother. There, we found a police offer eating lunch while ——’s brother was writing a report of how his phone had gone missing somewhere in the hotel (either his room, or his bag). The officer, once he finished his lunch provided by the hotel proceeded to question the brother and the hotel staff. about the incident.

The worker who had cleaned the room was eventually questioned, than slapped repeatedly. This boy, the worker, was accused of stealing the phone without an investigation or any proof. He was punished—physically—and then dismissed, fired from his job by his manager. He left the hotel; the report had to be rewritten so that the hotel’s name didn’t appear in the police report; and the officer and us enjoyed a cup of Chai. At one point, I saw the hotel manager slip something (a bribe?) into the officer’s pocket and eventually the officer left.

There are a lot more details to this story but it almost seems pointless to share. What I found incredible is the fact that an officer, meant to serve justice and law: accepted a bribe (be it food, water, chai, money), told ——’s brother to rewrite the incident report to the officer’s liking, physically abused a person who did not have a fair trial nor investigation, and the phone was still missing. How could something like this happen in a democracy? Is this a democracy? More than anything, this incident has made me think and made me question.

I don’t know if this was an isolated incident. I don’t know how often this happens, if it happens regularly, why it happens, or if it’s meant to. I just know what I saw and what I think. And much of that, for the time being, I’m keeping to myself.

  1. It is indeed very sad, but this is the reality in many parts of the world. Human rights are not always a priority and corruption is rife.

  2. says:

    There is corruption everywhere in the world, the western world is just good at hiding the unjust corruption, it just happens within a different level.

    Basically in India the small poor guy will always get blamed. However, many people in the west are behind bars that are innocent.

    I am here in India and I always tell the hotel to not clean my room, and if I can put my own lock on the door I do.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for the comment! You’re right: the western world is better at hiding corruption. It’s upsetting to see the small guy always getting in trouble here in India, though, when it’s often the people in power (however small) who are to blame.

  3. Lisa Bergren @TheWorldCalls says:

    So disappointing to come up against that kind of garbage…fretting over fired worker now! Poor guy!

  4. enrolled agent cpe says:

    You can see something like this in other countries around Southeast Asia. I grew up in the Philippines and corruption in the government is a major problem. I have been a witness to this type of event too where you can see an officer casually accepting a bribe. There’s a long history behind this especially in communities where poverty is the root cause of such thing.

  5. Claire says:

    my similar story in a nutshell: walking down the street in kolkata, clearly being followed by a very strange man. my friend told him repeatedly to leave us alone, stop following, etc. he refused. we ducked into a store, which just so happened to be a high end jewelry store (swarovski). we told the staff we just needed to hide for a few minutes. they in turn told their store manager who went outside, found the man and threw him to the ground, kicking and hitting him repeatedly while we watched in horror. then the police came and we all had tea. no punishment for the shopkeeper, no side of the story from the man. no thought to the fact that a man had just been beaten and now we were enjoying tea.

  6. Priyank says:

    Hi Adam,
    Ofcourse its a democracy! As you know, in a democracy, people who can make lot of noise count. Poor workers cannot do that, and there are lot of people who are forced to keep quiet this way. Its unfortunate.

    On a completely unrelated note, it’s interesting to note that in India, poverty does not imply high crime. In several mature democracies however, it does. That leaves me puzzled too!


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