This Article is From Aug 26, 2011

How cops forced me to live as a beggar for a week

How cops forced me to live as a beggar for a week
Mumbai: Bashirabi may not have been clad in her Sunday best when cops saw her at CST station on the morning of August 18, but the 55-year-old vegetable vendor from Nagpur wasn't dressed like a dog's dinner either.

If her appearance wasn't up to the standards deemed suitable by the team of policemen that mistook her for a beggar and hauled her to court it could be because she had spent the last six weeks in a hospital, undergoing treatment for a skin disorder. But cops couldn't be bothered with these details.

Having been discharged that August morning, she had come directly to the station, to catch a train back to Nagpur.

But the officials, thinking she was a beggar, arrested her under the Beggars Act, and took her to court where she was remanded to the beggars' home in Chembur. She was given no chance to prove her identity or explain her situation.

"I had come to Mumbai a month and a half ago for skin treatment. On the day of the incident, I had been discharged from JJ hospital. So I went straight to CST railway station and bought a ticket for a Nagpur-bound train.

Around 10 am, while I was waiting on the station premises, a team of police officers approached me and nudged me on towards a police van. I repeatedly asked them what was wrong, but they just kept shut," said Bashira.

The policemen took her to the Kurla Metropolitan Magistrate Court for a hearing. On her way to the court, Bashira overheard two of the officials and gauged that the cops had mistaken her for a beggar.

"I tried to explain that I was dressed shabbily only because my family hadn't come to receive me at JJ hospital," Bashira recounted.

"I requested them to allow me to make one phone call, so I could seek help from Leslie Pereira, the social worker who had helped me get admission in the hospital. But I wasn't even allowed that."

But the cops had no interest in her story. Without a background check, Bashira, who is separated from her husband and has three sons in Pachora, Nagpur, was produced at court.

"I was asked to either pay a fine of Rs 1,000 or stay at the beggars' home for a week. I didn't have that kind of money. I was helpless," Bashira said.


In the beggar's home, Bashira was lodged in a huge room, which she had to share with 75 other beggars under abject conditions.

"I have never gone through such a horrifying experience. I may come from a poor family, but never in my life have I been treated like a beggar.

It is a blow to my self-respect. How can the cops be so harsh?" she said tearfully.

According to Bashira, all the women in her barrack were bathed like animals. "They forced us to sit naked in a row and splashed a mug of water on each of us." she recalled.

"The guards were inhuman; they kept us thirsty for hours. I was forced to clean the toilets; the thought makes me sick to my stomach," added Bashira.

After almost a week, Pariera got to know about Bashira and he got in touch with the GRP.

Owing to court orders, Bashira was bound to stay in the beggars' home for a week. She was released on Thursday.

 "I have arranged for her ticket to Nagpur. I will ensure that she boards the train this time," Pariera said.

The Other Side

The police claim they are not sure which of their departments was responsible for the humiliation that Bashira suffered.

"Let me check who had picked up the woman. Sometimes, Mumbai policemen pick up beggars from station premises.

Sometimes, it is the Railway Protection Force, and often, it is the Government Railway Police," said Ashok Jadhav, senior inspector, CST GRP.