Joel Elliott, an award-winning American freelance journalist, working as a staff writer at Caravan magazine in Delhi since May this year, has charged “six to seven hours of beating and torture” by Delhi Police, for intervening while the cops were thrashing another man. Delhi Police, on its part, insists that Elliot was drunk, trying to steal a taxi, and had beaten up a couple of police men and an elderly driver. Even if we go by the Delhi Police version, what does it say about the rule of law in India’s capital city and the way its police metes out instant justice? Elliott has freelanced for New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and San Francisco Chronicle and he is a recipient of the Payne Award for courage. Following is the full text of the signed statement of Joel Elliott about the night of Oct. 5 and the morning of Oct. 6.
I am a journalist working for The Caravan, a narrative journalism magazine run by Delhi Press. I also freelance for a number of publications, including The New York Times. The Christian Science Monitor. San Francisco Chronicle and Global Post. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Toccoa Falls College in Georgia, USA. My work has won a number of state, regional and national awards in the United States.
On the evening of Oct 5, I visited the home of Kate Webb and Ryan Fletcher, two freelance journalist friends of mine who were flying out to London at 5 the next morning. My own flight, to the United States, would leave in a few days hence, and so we wanted l” spend one more evening together as we three would not see each other again for quite Some time. Their home is in Jangpura Extension, as is mine. We are separated by some six or seven blocks, perhaps eight.
I became tired sometime around 2 a.m. Oct 6, and set out on foot, atone, to my home As I was walking in the darkness, I came around the comer of a building and walked literally into the middle of an altercation between at least four Delhi Police Officers, in uniform, beating a person beside the street. As I had not been paying attention, one police officer’s baton struck me, perhaps by accident, while he was beating the other person on the ground. Startled. I shouted. When I realized what was happening to the person on the ground, I shouted again. The police officer closest to me turned and advanced, shouting something in a language I did not understand. I shouted back, saying they couldn’t just beat people in the street. In the middle of the exchange, the officer swung his baton and struck me in the left upper arm area and began to raise his baton to strike again. I struck him in the jaw, and as he reeled back, turned and fled, turning off of the way to my home, as the officers were in the way. They gave chase, but I had somewhat of head start, and it was quite dark, so I was able to evade their line of vision for a time. It took me a few moments to find my way back to a road that I recognized. The problem was that they could easily catch me in their mobile command post. I began searching for a hiding place, and the most obvious places were in the row of cars parked along the left hand side of the road. I slowed to a fast walk, trying door handles to see if one were unlocked. I was hoping I could hide inside one of the cars until the polite passed, since I was afraid they found me. Door after door I tried, to no avail. The last Car I tried was an Ambassador cab — I had been particularly hopeful about this car, because it had darkened windows. However, I had apparently chosen a car near Bhogal Marker that was parked next to a guard, or a driver, because someone came out of the shadows shouting. I tried to explain I wanted a hiding place, not to steal a car (after all my home was only five or six blocks away – why would I need a taxi?) But the man was shouting in a language I did not understand, and apparently did not understand me, either. His shouts alerted the police, who were already in pursuit, as was mentioned before, and they arrived quickly and surrounded me. Advancing quickly, they began beating me with their batons. In self-defense, I swung at, and connected, with a few of them, but I quickly went down beneath a rain of blows on my head, back, arms, thighs, shins, buttocks and ankles. The beating continued for some time after I had fallen.
They shackled my arms behind my back, so tight that to this date I have drastically reduced sensation in my left thumb. Then they shackled my ankles together and threw me bodily into the back of the mobile command vehicle. Three officers climbed into the rear compartment with me and resumed beating me, this time with their fists. They also slammed my face into the seat and into the floor, which action I was unable to resist, since my hands were shackled behind my back.
After some rime we arrived at what I later learned was the AIIMS Hospital. At the time, however. I was not aware of location, became the officers had continually slammed my head do»n and I was unable to see out of the windows for some time. They threw me from the rear of the truck and I landed on the asphalt hard, without being able to catch myself. Unable to walk, I found the skin being removed from my knees and lower body as the officers hoisted me up by my arms behind my back and dragged me into the hospital entry way. Again, at this point I had no way of knowing where I was; I believed I was in the police station. When a nurse emerged with a hypodermic needle, I began screaming for help and for someone to call the US Embassy. After the officers’ rough treatment of me, I was afraid of what the syringe contained As far as I knew. the woman was an employee of the polite department. No one explained to me in English what was happening. I struggled, the officers held me down, and I finally was forced to be injected by an unknown substance — one that later turned out to be a sedative. When the injection was complete, the officer again picked up my upper body and dragged me across ihe concrete floor and parking lot back lo the truck.
Once inside the truck, the three officers in the rear continued to strike mc in ihe fate and head as we rolled to the police station.
At ihe police station, the officers hauled me out of the rear of the truck and tossed me to the ground, still shackled. I began again streaming for someone to call the US Embassy to report this beating and continued torture. I lay like this for perhaps two hours.
After 15 or 20 minutes of my shouting for help, an officer came out and began kicking me, apparently angered by my calls for help. He did this one or two more times, as I still continued calling for help. After an hour or two had passed, several officers came out and dragged me into the police station, still scraping my lower body across the concrete. They threw me into a holding room with a concrete floor. I lay like this for perhaps a couple of hours, still shouting for someone to call the US Embassy.
Two officers came in two or three times and kicked me while I was lying on the floor, apparently to make me be quiet. In between these instances, they targeted the other person in the room, a young Indian man of perhaps 17 who had been sitting quietly near a table along the wall. One two or three occasion, two officers entered the room, and one held him down on the table while the other beat the soles of his feet with a baton. The young man screamed, but the beating went on and on
I am not sure whethcr this was the same young man I saw being beaten earlier in the morning.
Around 9 a.m., the polite asked for my street address and called for my flatmate to come and get me.
At no point during the six or seven hours they had held me did they offer me any food or water. At no point did they offer me the Opportunity make a phone call. At no point until my release did they unshackle me. At no point did they contact the US Embassy, according to the Embassy itself. The police are required to notify the US Embassy the moment a foreigner is arrested.
My flatmate took me to the hospital for treatment. I was covered in blood from head to toe from the police beating. My pants, which were still on me. were torn to shreds, and covered in blood. My shirt had been torn from my body. The hospital staff, concerned about the gaping wound to the side of my head and blood clots in my right eye, combined with the massive bruising across the whole of my body, kept me at AIIMS Hospital for two days and one night. I received five stitches to my eyebrow
I request a thorough inquiry into the six to seven hours of beating and torture I endured at the hands, feet and batons of Delhi Police. I request that the police officers responsible be removed ftom their positions
Date: October 8, 2009
Time: 4 p.m
Place: New Delhi
Second floor, N-31 B, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi
Seeking Justice for Joel Elliott, Petition Online