Told by Fenton Creek

In parts of India it is not uncommon for offenders to be given an ‘off the record’ caning for minor offences. Records of the crime are then conveniently lost but a blind eye is turned as this reduces police paperwork and court time.

This article, from the Old Delhi Times, is an interview with a young woman caught stealing from a market stall in an undisclosed Indian city.

Old Delhi Times: So, tell us how it all started?

Nita (name changed): I was in the market with my friend Vara (name also changed) and saw some nice fabric. My Masi (aunt) wanted to make a dress for my little cousin and the cloth was just right, but I could not afford it. So while Vara distracted the stallholder I took it and slipped it into my bag.

ODT: But you got caught?

Nita: Yes, another stallholder saw what happened. He grabbed me and when Vara tried to run away she was caught as well. Then a Constable came and took us to the Police station.

ODT: What happened there?

Nita: We were taken to the Inspector’s office and had to wait on a bench outside. There were two girls from the local Senior School waiting, and a well-dressed woman who was about thirty-five years old. She went in first, then came out a few minutes later and a Policewoman took her away. We were then called in.

ODT: To see the Inspector?

Nita: Yes. He told us that we had a choice. We could go to the Magistrate and possibly get a fine – which we could not afford, or perhaps go to prison for a few days.

ODT: Did that scare you?

Nita: Yes. Vara’s friend had been in prison and it was not nice, especially for a young woman.

ODT: And the choice?

Nita: The Inspector said that instead of going to the Magistrate, we could have five strokes of the cane each, at the Police station that afternoon. That would then be the end of it. No fine. No record.

ODT: And you accepted?

Nita: I did not think there was any other way. The Inspector called for the Policewoman and she took us away to another building in the police compound.

ODT: What happened there?

Nita: She opened the door and told us to go in. There was a big bare room with small windows high up and a toilet in the corner. There was another door opposite.

ODT: Was anybody else in there?

Nita: Yes. There was a woman and she was naked! I realised that it was the same woman that had been in the Inspector’s office.

ODT: Then what happened?

Nita: The Policewoman gave us a plastic bag each. She told us to get undressed and put our clothes into the bag. She said we could keep our chappal (sandals) but nothing else.

ODT: So you did as you were told.

Nita: I asked why we had to take our clothes off. She said: “Cane is on bare bottom. Also the police compound is unlocked, but without clothes you cannot sneak away. You will get everything back after your punishment.”

ODT: Did you know it was a bare bottom caning?

Nita: No! I was wearing a salwaar chemiz (traditional long loose shirt and trouser suit) so I thought that the cane would not hurt so much. Vara had a saree and underskirt so she thought same thing.

ODT: So you stripped?

Nita: What else could we do? It was embarrassing. Nobody ever sees me naked; I only take my clothes off to have a bath. But we stripped and put our clothes in the bags.

ODT: Then what happened?

Nita: Then the two schoolgirls came in and they had to strip to their shoes and socks.

All five of us were now naked. After about five minutes the other door opened and a woman wearing an Inspector’s uniform came in. We were told to go through the door.

ODT: What did you find?

Nita: It was a small open yard with brick walls. There was a sort of a narrow bench with a leather top in the shape of upside down V. Beside it there was another policewoman holding a lathi (type of short whip carried by police).

The Inspector lady called the lady we saw earlier over to the bench. She had to lean right over it. It must have been very shameful for her as we could see all her privates. The Inspector nodded to the Policewoman. She walked over to the bench, raised up the lathi, then whipped it across the lady’s bottom.

ODT: How did she react?

Nita: She made a little shriek but that was all. The Inspector nodded and the policewoman whipped her again. The lady stayed quiet but I saw her body go tense. After the next stroke she cried out a little bit, same for the next two strokes. She was then allowed to stand up.

ODT: What next?

Nita: Now it was Vara’s turn. She was bent over the bench as well. First stroke she just gasped, second one she cried out, third one she started crying. The Policewoman waited a few seconds then gave the fourth stroke, Vara cried out: “No more!” Then the fifth stroke and she was allowed to get up trembling and sobbing. She came over to me and I pulled her close to comfort me. It was very strange to be naked and hugging another naked woman.

ODT: And then?

It was the turn of one of the schoolgirls. She bent over the bench and took her five strokes without much noise; she seemed to just gasp instead of crying or screaming.

ODT: Please carry on:

Nita: Now it was the turn of the other schoolgirl. She bent over the bench but after first stroke she stood up again rubbing her bottom. The Policewoman told her to bend over again, but she was crying and refusing. The Inspector and Policewoman grabbed her, put handcuffs on her behind her back then bent her over the bench again. The Inspector held her shoulders down while the strokes were given. She screamed every time, it was terrible noise. When she got up and had the handcuffs taken away she just walked about sobbing and rubbing her bottom.

ODT: Now it was your turn?

Nita: Yes, I think that going last was the worst. I bent over the bench and it felt so shameful as everybody could see my bottom and my private parts. I was all tense, I did not know when the first lash was coming. The first one startled me but it was not so painful as I expected. Then second one came right in the same place, very painful but I still kept quiet. Third one, though, was too much and I just screamed out. I was panting and could hardly breathe. I tried to stand up but the policewoman just pushed me back over the bench. Fourth one was not as hard as the others, then after that the Policewoman was whispering to the Inspector and I hoped it was over.

ODT: And was it?

Nita: No, I had started to relax, then last lash came. I screamed out and tried not to cry. Then the Policewoman tapped my shoulder and told me to get up.

ODT: Then what happened?

Nita: We were sent back inside again. Vara, and one of the schoolgirls were still sobbing. Vara and I gave each other a hug. After that we had to wait for about five minutes, still in the nude, before another policewoman came back with our clothes. We were then allowed to get dressed and go home.

ODT: Would you ever go stealing again?

Nita: (laughs) – Oh no, I have learned my lesson.

The End