Saying it is “appalled” that policemen in Punjab have been using “the offensive term ‘nigro’ or ‘negro’ while referring to ‘black’ persons in case papers”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said “no one has any business to use it, and much less the police”.
Instructing the state DGP to immediately sensitise investigating officers and police officers who record FIRs, Justice Rajiv Narain Raina, in his June 12 order, said this “unprintable word” should never be used.
“I am appalled to find the term ‘Nigro’ used while referring to an African national in the challan papers presented under Section 173 CrPC before the trial court in an NDPS case. This is a highly offensive word across the globe, and no one has any business to use it, and much less the police… This brings shame to India and hatred for the country.
The police appear to have assumed that every black is a drug peddler and should be treated as such. This is terrible thinking,” Justice Raina said.
Saying visitors or students from Africa “deserve dignity and respect in a foreign land”, he said India takes pride that it has “peoples of all colours of the skin, ranging from white to black and aboriginal”. In challan papers filed before a Jalandhar court about a case registered in December 2019, police used the word “Nigro”. According to the FIR registered at police station Maqsudan, the accused persons were found to be in possession of 500 grams of heroin.
Incidentally, none of the accused is a foreigner.
Justice Raina’s June 12 order was passed on the bail petition of an accused.
Advocate Sahil Puri, who has been representing the accused in the case, told The Indian Express: “The police, in the challan/chargesheet and other official documents, have used the word ‘negro’. One of the accused, in his disclosure statement, is said to have stated that he purchased the heroin from a ‘negro’ in Delhi.”
Observing that police appear to have assumed that “every black” person is a drug peddler and should be treated as such, Justice Raina said:
“All Africans are our friends and when they come to India either as visitors or students, they are our valuable guest… India is rich in its traditions of ‘mehman nawazi’ and ‘attithi sanskar/satkar’ and prides itself on this. They should simply be referred to by the country of their origin in case papers.”
Recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s fight in South Africa against “colour discrimination”, he said: “We are, professedly, a tolerant sub-continent of ‘browns in all its shades’, but more often than not, display a perverted and primitive mind-set looking down on others without looking within ourselves.”
“For many centuries we have been slaves. Freedom does not lend its wings to our countrymen to fly anywhere they wish and in any manner they like and abuse foreigners on the street calling them ‘kalla’. To the contrary, freedom teaches love for human dignity and respect for fellowmen,” he said.
Observing that corrections need to be made by ordering strict action against policemen who indulge in “character assassination” based on physical features, the High Court has asked the state to inform it about the action proposed to be taken. The matter will be heard next on June 18.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines