Civil society members decry cordon and search operations in Hyderabad

Activists claimed that while drug users are found among people from all ‘classes’, searches and nabbing culprits were being done from the ‘lower rung of the society.

Cordon and search operations tend to project areas as ‘criminal areas’, are an infringement of privacy, and drug consumption is seen in all classes of society but searches are being done in the relatively ‘lower rung’ of society, a fact-finding committee on the issue has observed.

The fact-finding committee comprised activists Surya from Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya, Sajaya, Nikhat Fatima, Sujatha Surepally from Dalit Women Collective, Kaneez Fathima, Jyothi, S Q Masood, and Bilal from Human Rights Forum.

In a statement to the media, the committee said said that they visited neighbourhoods which witnessed cordon and search operations and spoke to residents about what ensued during these operations. These neighbourhoods included Chandraiah Huts, Hanumanthu huts and Narsaiah huts, which is a settlement of 236 huts, along the banks of the Musi. A large number of dwellers here, the team said, were Madigas, and a few families belonging to Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims. The committee also interacted with residents of Nawab Sahab Kunta and Teegal Kunta which also saw cordon and search operations.

Describing cordon and search as originally a ‘military tactic’ to crack down on insurgents, the committee stated that according to information obtained under the Right to Information Act, the operation is done under section 94 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The committee observed that several women who were living in the areas where cordon and search operations were carried out were confused and frightened with the police presence, especially since they arrived without any prior intimation. They also observed that such operations ‘enable a range of human rights violations, including physical intimidation and assault, invasion of privacy, arbitrary and unlawful detention, collective punishment and destruction of private property’, and underscored that such areas are tend to be projected as ‘criminal areas’.

Activists claimed that while drug users are found among people from all ‘classes’, searches and nabbing culprits were being done from the ‘lower rung of the society.

Terming cordon and search illegal, the committee demanded that police cease these operations at once. The list of demands includes the exclusion of officers in plain clothes, an end to seizing of property such as vehicles in the absence of written orders, and stopping checking phones of civilians.

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