Fact-Finding in Bardharam| June 19, 2009
On Sunday, I woke up at 4:00 AM to catch a train to Bardharam. For me, every week is a seven day work week and concepts such as implied warranty of habitability and maximium working hours seem as far off as the thought of getting a good cheese burger.
The train journey took roughtly two and a half hours. While on the train I was bombarded by a multitude of sights and smells. Hawkers with items ranging from scissors, to hard candy, and tea attempted to sell goods, and a variety of beggers, including a blind man with a boy, an old man with a monkey, and a young man who made funny noises and beat himself with a stick attempted to get money. In Bardharam, there was a local protest again the regional ruling government, the Communiust Party of India. Police arrived to desperse the protesters and then proceeded to go into a local market and beat three local shop keepers and four store patrons, without any apparent provocation.
First we met with a local lawyer at the bar association of the town. Suffice to say, the building resembled nothing like the ABA-Office in Washington D.C. He quickly briefed us on the situation and we then proceeded to the market. We met with two of the three shopkeepers, took down their statements and then drafted a complaint to file again the police. An impomptu press conference was then held and roughtly thirty members of the local and regional newspapers took statements from myself and the three member fact finding team.
We then travelled to a nearby village to talk with the family members of the victims. The dirt road was barricaded with branches and trees about one mile away from the village, so we had to get out of the car and walk. I was told the barricade was created to prevent the police from entering the village. We were greeted by the entire population of the village, a roughtly sixty person congregation, and we were taken into the meeting shanty. We took statements from several people and found that there has been a systematic history of police brutality in the region and drafted a second complaint against the police.
The next stop was the local police station. Evidently, they were warned in advance of our presense in the area and everyone but one police officer had left. When we asked him if the police had a response or statement, he said that he was new at the station and did not know anything. We then requested a meeting with his C.O. He informed us he did not know where the C.O. was or when he would return. We asked him if there was anyone else we could talk to and he said he did not know where anyone was. We took down his name and badge number and I left the station sadly realizing the local were either extremely corrupt, incompetent, or both.
We left the region again by train and I returned back, extremely exhausted, at 10:45 PM. No rest for the wicked.