Countermapping pandemic policing: A study by CPA Project

With the State's most visible strategy to tackle the coronavirus pandemic being strict lockdowns and intensive policing, the data available on how this policing happened has been minimal.

A study which tried to establish how the police apparatus worked in the state of Madhya Pradesh during the pandemic was conducted by Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project (CPA Project). And the study, sure enough, opened a whole can of worms.

The CPA Project is a Bhopal based litigation-research based intervention which specifically looks into the police's targeting of marginalized communities. It was founded by lawyers Nikita Sonavane and Ameya Bokil. Through their study titled ‘Countermapping Pandemic Policing: Sanctioned Violence in Madhya Pradesh’ conducted during the pandemic, the group highlighted several disturbing patterns in the manner in which the police department and the criminal justice system carried out their work. Most of the FIRs were filed against pedestrians and persons on two-wheelers, shooting from 50.28% in the first and second lockdown to 89% during the third. A record 34,000 people were arrested.

The study brought to fore emerging policing trends, particularly those involving misrepresentation of marginalized communities in arrest records, as well as a large number of resources invested in arrests for petty offences.

“We saw Section 188 being invoked against pedestrians, against street vendors. So it allowed us to get that sort of specific view of the nature of these offences and of various instances and also how police functioning differed from one district to another in the state of MP. And this of course compiled with the narratives of those who had been arrested allowed us to get a holistic picture of how policing was conducted in the pandemic," says Nikita on some of the learnings from the study.

Watch the authors of the study (Nikita, Ameya and Srujana Bhej) explain the manner in which criminal law was used to further oppress marginalised communities during the lockdown.



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