"Police adhere to Identification of Prisoners Act guidelines"

Faced with persistent criticism from human rights activists that the police are resorting to profiling of students and workers from outside Tamil Nadu, Director General of Police K. Ramanujam on Friday categorically said that no such exercise was on.

Responding to the accusation made by some human rights activists that the police are planning to enumerate workers, students and tenants based on their ethnicity and language, he said no such action had been ordered. “We are not undertaking any profiling of students from other States. There is no such initiative from the police headquarters…we don't intend to do anything like that,” Mr. Ramanujam told The Hindu.

There were certain restrictions on obtaining the fingerprints of suspects or members of the public in general. The police scrupulously adhered to the guidelines laid down under the Identification of Prisoners Act. “There is no question of police targeting students or migrant workers based on ethnicity or language.”

Refuting the allegations of profiling in Chennai city, Commissioner of Police J.K. Tripathy said that the force had only asked employers at construction sites to maintain a database of workers. “We are telling educational institutions to create a database of all students who are not staying in hostels. Landlords are being insisted upon to keep details of their tenants. The police may access the database as and when required.”

A section of the media had misquoted the police, Mr. Tripathy said. The police had not made any attempt to profile those from other States. “We have no plans to call any migrant worker to the police station and record his fingerprint. When it comes to questioning a suspect, we are not bothered about his/her caste, religion, language etc.”

Human rights activists, however, maintained that such an exercise is on in Tirupur and Coimbatore districts. Representatives of different organisations, including A. Marx (People's Union for Human Rights), Geetha Ramakrishnan (Unorganised Workers' Federation) and Madhumita Dutta (Campaign for Justice and Peace), said that the move to enumerate workers, college students ad tenants based on their ethnicity and language was “racist” and “classist”. It was “openly unconstitutional,” and interfered with the rights of the citizens to move freely within the country.

The activists said that persisting with such enumeration could lead to a situation that the police may find it difficult to contain.

“Police have visited houses of migrant workers and collected details. The workers are so scared they don't go out after 6 p.m. Whenever they go out in the night, they say police intercept and interrogate them. In some cases, migrant workers claimed they were taken to the police station for questioning,” Ms. Dutta said.