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Re: Somebody has to sort it out

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This report appeared in The Telegraph newspaper of Calcutta.

                   FROM ANAND SOONDAS 
                   Varanasi, May 31  
                   Four years ago, Rakesh Vij was like any other 22-year-old
                   boy. Commonplace. So were his dreams. Very middle class. 

                   He wanted to be a chartered accountant, to get his sister
                   married and make his brother an engineer. 

                   In the four years that make a boy a man, Rakesh has changed
                   like no commonplace 26-year-old. He now lies in bed,
                   paralysed. When he speaks, gusts of air escape through the
                   opening left by five knocked-out teeth in a whistle. Every
                   word is followed by a desperate snatch for a gulp of air
—                    he
                   has a deep gash on his neck. 

                   A knock on the door on a winter night in November, 1996,
                   turned the course of his life, then fresh out of
college. Police,
                   investigating the murder of one of his friends, picked
him up
                   for questioning. 

                   Three days of torture has left him an invalid. Bedridden
                   1996, he has to be bathed by his father and fed by his
                   His brother religiously cleans the bed soiled by urine. 

                   “We lost everything,” weeps Rakesh’s father, Raj Kumar Vij.
                   “I wanted to make him a famous man, a chartered accountant.
                   Now I only pray that he lives for a few more years. Look
                   what they have done to him,” he says, removing Rakesh’s

                   The boy winces as he turns over to show his disfigured
                   His buttocks are covered by electrocution marks; the police
                   also drove a lathi up his rectum. Mauled toes stick up
from the
                   sole of his feet punctured in numerous places; hair is
yet to
                   grow from the patches of skin plucked out by five

                   Five policeman — sub-inspectors Rajendra Prasad Singh and
                   Gorakhnath Shukla, station house officer R.N. Singh, Gyan
                   Prakash Pandey and J.P. Singh — picked up Rakesh after
                   learning that Sanjay Singh, who was murdered on May 29,
                   1996, was his friend. They wanted Rakesh to identify the

                   The nightmare began when Rakesh told them he had no idea
                   what the police were talking about. The enraged bunch of
                   cops then tried everything to make Rakesh talk. 

                   “The torture went on for three whole days,” Rakesh says,
                   every breath a painful struggle. “I was hung upside
down, they
                   kept me without food and water for three days and made me
                   urinate on a burning electric heater after which both my
                   kidneys were destroyed.” 

                   Not content, the policemen poured petrol into his ears and
                   forced it down his rectum. All this while, no one could
                   him. Everytime his father tried, he was beaten up and
                   outside the police station. 

                   Finally, when his condition started deteriorating, the
cops took
                   him to Sir Sunderlal Hospital. But when his father
reached the
                   hospital, he found Rakesh on a stretcher outside the
ward, on
                   the verge of death. He was taken to Heritage Hospital, a
                   private nursing home. 

                   On a petition filed by his father, the Allahabad High
Court, on
                   December 16, 1996, directed the police to pay for Rakesh’s
                   medical expenses. The police did, but only for some time.
                   Orders were allegedly given to doctors at Heritage to
                   discontinue Rakesh’s treatment. 

                   Rakesh remained in coma for 60 days — a story that made
                   headlines in a local vernacular as “the man who came back
                   from the dead” — and his medical reports were sent to the
                   International Federation of Clinical Chemistry in
Stockholm as
                   a “case study” in January 1997. 

                   Soon, Rakesh was turned out of the nursing home. Raj Vij
                   first sold his sari shop in Varanasi, then the family’s
                   was pawned. Furniture was the next to go. 

                   Sitting in a sparse room with gaping holes in the walls
and the
                   ceiling, Raj says: “We lost everything. There was no money.
                   Rajnesh and Rupsi (Rakesh’s brother and sister) had to
                   discontinue their studies. Rupsi now says she will not
                   because there is barely any money to keep her brother

                   Amnesty International took up the case on May 16 1997, and
                   applied pressure on the National Human Rights Commission
                   to “do something about Rakesh Vij”. The commission, in an
                   order dated October 22, 1999, asked the Uttar Pradesh
                   government to arrange for Rakesh’s “complete medical
                   treatment” at either AIIMS in New Delhi or at the Sanjay
                   Gandhi Institute in Lucknow. 

                   It also directed the government to provide “immediate
                   relief of Rs 10 lakh within one month”. 

                   Neither has happened. 

                   “Please tell them to send us some money soon. I don’t want
                   to die,” Rakesh says between gasps, clutching a copy of the
                   human rights commission report, as if it were a ticket
to life.   

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