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Andrew Buncombe's Asia Diary

The Independent's Asia Correspondent Andrew Buncombe is based in Delhi. His dominion ranges over India, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, occasionally parts of South East Asia and - or at least he is hoping - The Maldives.

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @AndrewBuncombe

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It was at a July 4 party at the US Embassy in Delhi this summer when I met Joel Elliott, a young award-winning American journalist who had just arrived in the city. He was young and friendly and was doing his best to manage with the power-cuts and the stinking heat of the Indian summer. He told me he had decided to come to India to try his hand at freelancing and he had just upped and left his home in Georgia to come and do so. I thought he was far more courageous than myself and I was particularly liked his business card which read: "Available for assignments around the world".
 Sadly I failed to keep in touch with Joel but it turns out that he quickly found his feet in Delhi, finding work with a couple of magazines and working on a series of stories. It appears all was going well until early last month when he was walking home late at night from the home of a couple of friends who lived near him in the south of the city. Encountering  a group of policemen who were beating someone in the street, Joel threw himself into the fray, trying to persuade them to stop and getting hit himself. He also delivered a couple of blows before running off and the police giving chase. It did not take the police long to find him and when they did they allegedly gave him a beating he will never forget. Locked up in a police cell for more than six hours, he was refused permission to call his friends or the US embassy. His friends were eventually called and they took him to a hospital where he needed to stay for two days before he was well enough to walk out. "My flatmate took me to the hospital for treatment. I was covered in blood from head to toe from the police beating. My [trousers], which were still on me. were torn to shreds, and covered in blood. My shirt had been torn from my body," he later wrote. "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."
 Joel then took the decision to leave Delhi, but before he did so he filed a lawsuit against the police for $500,000. The federal information minister has announced an investigation but there's been no news on its outcome. Instead, the police have sought to put the blame on Joel, claiming he was drunk (something which has been disproved), that he was trying to steal a taxi (which is laughable) and that he had attacked an elderly person (which is equally nonsense). 
 Anyway, this week, Joel wrote a piece about his ordeal for the highly-respected Indian magazine Tehelka. In it, he makes the point that such brutality is commonplace and that human rights organsations have long pointed out how badly India's police force requires urgent reform. He also makes the point, that had he not been a journalist (and had he not been a white journalist at that) it's likely that no-one would have bothered to even listen to his story. I emailed Joel the other day. He is still in the US and considering his future. As I said, I thought he was a brave soul when I first met him, shrugging off the hardships and strangeness of arriving in the middle of India's summer. My first impression was clearly correct.


India Police
ampalavan wrote:
Monday, 9 November 2009 at 07:21 pm (UTC)
Do you believe that Indian Minister and Police. World's most corrupted ministers and police never do such things
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Saturday, 30 October 2010 at 03:16 am (UTC)
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