Kadireshan Ravishankar, a 34-year-old barber and father of four, alleges he was tortured by the Hatton HQI (Headquarters Inspector) on September 23. He was working at his brother, Kadireshan Simson’ salon - ‘CS Saloon’ - when he was called to give a haircut to the Hatton HQI. Grappling with abject poverty, Ravishankar has now been forced to battle against the added burden of social stigma after surviving police torture.
“At around 7.00 p.m., two police officers in plain attire came to our salon and asked me to come with them to trim the hair of the Hatton HQI,” said Ravishankar. However, he has refused to go on the errand as his employer (brother) was absent and also as there were customers who had been waiting for a longtime.
“But I told them I would come once the salon closed for the day. Yet, they threatened that I would not be able to open the salon the next day. They left after intimidating me,” he added.
According to Ravishankar, the police officers had returned with back-up officers at 7.30 p.m. and threatened him again. He alleged that the police officers who included two Sub-Inspectors forced him to go to the police station.
“As I had no other choice, I asked the two customers left behind to wait for my brother. Then I went with the police officers,” he said.
A terrible fate awaited him at the police station. He alleges that he was tortured.
“The HQI addressed me derogatorily and yelled at me inhumanly. He asked me very arrogantly as to why I had refused to arrive initially. I explained to him the reason and I apologized. But the HQI grabbed me by my right arm, which he twisted and held on my back. He punched me five times on my back with his elbow. He didn’t stop at that. He punched on my face and kicked me as well. It hurt very much and I still suffer in pain,” wept Ravishankar. Thereafter, police officers had asked him to contact his brother. He has informed his brother of the plight he had undergone.
Ravishankar had then, taking his equipment, run out of a door that was ajar, to his salon situated half a kilometre from the police station.
“My brother and two customers were at the salon. And outside, there were many people looking at me flabbergasted, wondering what had happened,” said Ravishankar. He had requested his brother to admit him to the Dikoya Base Hospital as he was injured.
“At the hospital, an ASP and another police officer asked me to get discharged. I refused because I was in extreme pain. They tried forcing me to sign the discharge form but I didn’t. They also asked my brother to convince me to get discharged. After that, the ASP came again with more than 15 officers. None of them was in uniform,” added Ravishankar.
“On the 24th, I gave a statement to the Hospital Police. That evening, an ASP from the Nuwara Eliya Police station recorded a statement from me. On the 25th, two Sub-Inspectors from the Hatton Police asked me about the two customers who were in the salon when I returned after being tortured. But I didn’t reveal their identities for their safety,” he said.
Ravishankar had been discharged from the hospital on September 26. However, as he had not fully recovered, he had been admitted to the Nawalapitiya Hospital for a few days. Ravishankar is still recovering from his injuries. “Police officers still follow me. I feel so ashamed when people look at me. My three children who are schooling are questioned in school as to what happened to their father. My youngest child is four and a half years old. My record of being tortured by the police will be a problem when we need to admit the child to school in future,” said Ravishankar.
“The HQI who tortured me wasn’t penalized. He was merely transferred to the Nuwara Eliya Police station,” he further said.
Kandy Human Rights Office Director Fr. Nandana Manathunga said a protest was held the very next day after the torture in Hatton, requesting the IGP to take action against the alleged perpetrator. As a result, the HQI had been transferred to the Nuwara Eliya Police station. Thereafter, he had been transferred to the Batticaloa Police station where he currently functions.
A Police officer attached to the Hatton Police station said the inquiry was conducted by the Nuwara Eliya Police station.
“Legally, we’re not allowed to conduct an inquiry as all allegations are against this police station. So the Nuwara Eliya Police station was given the responsibility and they conducted the inquiry which is complete now. But we’re not aware of the results,” the police officer said.
When we contacted the Nuwara Eliya Police station, its officers confirmed that the inquiry was complete and the HQI was transferred to their police station.
“The inquiry was conducted by ASP Dasanayake. However, there will be further disciplinary investigation,” he said.
District ASP Dasanayake said information pertaining to the inquiry could not be revealed to the media. “I conducted the inquiry and statements were collected. But I can’t divulge the result of the inquiry because internal officers are involved,” he said.
Stigma attached to torture victims
“Torture victims are not usually supported by civil society members as police accuse them with fabricated charges to justify torture. As a result, people believe the police, thus condemning the victims of torture,” Fr. Nandana Manathunga said.
“People are also afraid of associating or assisting torture victims, fearing that police would target them as well. There have been instances where people who assisted torture victims by providing security or giving evidence, were later arrested with fabricated charges such as keeping drugs in their possession. Hence, due to their vulnerability, torture victims give up the fight in seeking justice. Some have even fled the country,” he added.