The Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project, a Bhopal-based research and litigation group, has published a report on police action and arrests during the COVID-19 pandemic in Madhya Pradesh. The report is based on over 34,000 arrest records and 500 FIRs filed during the national lockdown last year.
The researchers found that “the police exercised the wide discretionary powers arbitrarily and disproportionately criminalised marginalised communities”.
Over 6,000 individuals, according to the report were arrested solely for violating lockdown regulations. “Of the individuals arrested for violating lockdown regulations, nearly 30% belonged to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and De-notified Tribal (DNT) communities; nearly 20% were members of Other Backward Class communities and nearly 25% were from the Muslim community.”
The illustrations below, by Anurag Ekka, tell the story of Phullobai – a Gondi vegetable seller in Lalgarh who was targeted by the police despite being an essential service worker.