“I remember that day very well. My son had fallen terribly ill the night before. I didn’t have enough money on hand to take him to a decent private hospital. I felt powerless. But the next day, when I was told that we had found the culprit for a murder and that I was to be a part of the investigation, I saw a ray of hope. This was my first investigation as a police officer, after twelve years of service. If I could bring this man to justice, this case could help me prove myself.
After arresting Aftab, a few of my colleagues took him to a safe house where they tortured him for days to extract a confession. I saw what they did to him and I will never be able to forget it. They hung him from a rod, the ends of which were tied to chairs. The rod passed through his arms and behind the back of his legs, leaving him hanging upside down. Yet the torture did not stop there. My seniors used wooden sticks to beat the soles of his feet until they were completely bloodied. All the while, beads of sweat rolled down his back and he winced in pain, letting out a scream with each whip. In vain attempts to shield his feet from the blows, he tried covering them with his hands, which caused them to bleed too. They gave him short respites from the beating. In the thaana [police-station] they teach us to do this deliberately, as the short breaks amplify the pain when the beating is resumed. In these breaks, they hurled abuses at him, ordering him to confess to the murder, to “come clean”. He looked confused but most of all incredibly tired and beat down. Unable to bear the excruciating pain, Aftab caved and told them that he had done it all, “jo bhi kaha hay” [whatever they said]. He was then untied and made to walk around the room in agony given how badly the soles of his feet were injured. My seniors tied him a second time and repeated their demands, after which they made him walk around the room again. The entirety of this took a few days. During this time he was allowed no sleep, and given hardly any food and water. He pissed himself multiple times, and they laughed at him.
“Everything happened so fast that night. In the blink of an eye, I lost my husband and my children lost their father. I wish Farhan had never confronted the thief and that man had taken what he wanted and left. My family would still be whole. I wish I could tell you my memory was clear, but it's as muddied as my conscience. When the police came to me and said someone had confessed to them, I believed them. They told me that they knew it was him, that he had confessed.
When they showed me his picture, I instantly recognised him. That man had come to our house earlier! It was Aftab, one of our neighbours. I had heard him arguing with my husband. I asked Farhan about it later and he said Aftab was just angry about a non-issue, that he’d settle everything with him later in the month.
They said my only chance for justice was to tell the court that it was him, otherwise the case could go on for years. Cases take years to be resolved in this country. I didn’t have the money or the courage to get into a legal battle. They told me he was the murderer and I believed them, because what else could I do? Even though there was a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked at him. I didn’t see the man’s face that night. Maybe it was Aftab or maybe it wasn’t. Honestly, I don’t know. I just want justice for my husband. But he had confessed, right? He was guilty, so he confessed. So I buried the feeling and said it was him. What else could I have done?”
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“Since my arrest, I have cried myself to sleep every night. You think you are all cried out, but then every morning the tears just start flowing again. I did not kill Farhan. God knows I didn’t. They tortured me until I confessed. I still remember that week, the beatings, the humiliation. They starved me, beat me until I bled, made me piss myself, and then repeated the cycle. They said unimaginable things about my wife and daughters. By the end I did not feel human. I still have injuries from where they lashed me on my back. I just wanted it to be over, so I said I had done it. I still wish I had not. But they would never have stopped. During the time they tormented me, they gave me a blank piece of paper and made me put my thumbprint on it. Now they are saying that piece of paper is my confession statement.
For 11 days, I was kept in police custody and not produced before any magistrate or judge. It is painful to even recount the details of what I was put through during that time. After a few days, I began to lose a grip on reality. I started hallucinating. I even started believing that I had really killed Farhan. Even though, despite our earlier argument, I liked him. He would often send free eggs from his poultry business. But they had broken me, cracked me like one of Farhan’s eggs. I told them everything. Everything that was not true. I told them lies so they wouldn’t beat me anymore. I just wanted the torture to end.
All I want is another chance at my life, at being a husband and a father. Just one chance. Now, they tell me the government will sentence me to death. That I will be hanged until I die, for a crime I did not commit. They will keep me alive until the day they decide to kill me.
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