Victim Dawa showing his bruise (Photo by Tashi Gyeltshen)

Police accused of manhandling

Dawa, a 40-year-old man who lives on alms and crumbs, often arrested for petty crimes in Samtse has alleged that the police has manhandled him several times while under detention.

Just a few days ago, Tashi Gyeltshen who works for the dzongkhag administration in Samtse, while on a lunch break happened to notice an ailing Dawa who was limping and struggling to stand on his feet.

Tashi, a resident in Samtse for the past seven years said Dawa is a very helpful person.

Tashi reported that he was told the police had physically abused the beggar, inflicting a lot of pain on the soles of his feet. “He showed me his foot saying he was manhandled by police after he was arrested from the vegetable shed,” Tashi told The Bhutanese during a telephonic interview.

Out of sympathy, Tashi took pictures of the bruises and posted it on social network sites which elicited various reactions and comments from the public.

“I was told by the victim that he was manhandled by the cops when he was in the detention cell and was not fed for five days. I am just wondering Victim Dawa showing his bruise (Photo by Tashi Gyeltshen)

what would be the reason for the police to beat a person like him,” Tashi said.

Dawa lives in a makeshift hut, away from the town and it is learnt he makes his living by helping shopkeepers and hoteliers, who in return give him food and at times a little liquor. Other times, Dawa beg for food and alms.

Karma, a businessman based in Samtse who has been living in Samtse for the past 35 years said, “This is not the first time we have seen him in such a condition. The last time I saw him this way, I gave some food because he is a helpful person.”

While police said Dawa was arrested last month, they denied the allegations of manhandling the victim.

The Superintendent of Police (SP), Lieutenant Colonel Sonam Tshering of Samtse Police station said, “ Dawa was arrested from the vegetable shed of Samtse town last month since about more than ten residents had formally lodged complaints against him for creating nuisance and stealing.”

“But my officer confirmed that they never manhandled him, and moreover, we are not allowed to raise hands on detainees. I have investigated the matter, and we deny the allegations,” the SP added.

However, many Samtse town residents said they are used to Dawa drinking occasionally and creating nuisance.

A 37-year-old businessman seeking anonymity said, “The bruise on his foot speaks the truth.” He also added, “If not cops then who could do it? Poor man, he has no strong background and there is no one to take care of him. I think concerned agencies should come forward to help such disadvantaged people. He may not be the only person with such cases.”

The SP was initially not aware about the incident while everyone in the town knew about what had happened to Dawa, but kept quiet out of fear that they might be booked for speaking.

Tashi Gyeltshen denied that Dawa is a nuisance to the town, and said the victim has a mother to look after who lives in Mechitar, a few kilometers away from Samtse town.

It is also alleged that police had manhandled him during his stay in detention cell “not once or twice, but thrice.”

Another businessman and owner of Norbu hotel and bar in Samtse said Samtse is the birth place of Dawa. “Dawa is an alcoholic who drinks from dawn and bully villagers, especially during the market day which falls on Sunday. But at the same time he is helpful to the people of this town,” he said.

While some said Dawa is mentally ill, there are no medical reports to confirm it and some of Samtse town residents said, “He is just a normal person who is living in such conditions due to alcohol.”

Many of the people The Bhutanese talked to say the police might have manhandled him and some also questioned if the government could find solutions to such a predicament.

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