This article originally appeared on VICE India.
For someone who is a product of the Indian education system, I’ve had my share of punishments from teachers, which in retrospect I can say ranged from bizarre to cruel. I’ve been made to stand facing a corner all day long with no respite for even a chock-full bladder; I’ve been hit on my knuckles with a duster; and of course I’ve been whacked, which as problematic as it sounds, is probably something most millennials in their early 30s would attest to as a normal part of growing up in India. But if there’s one thing I’ve been made to do the most, it’s been writing a sentence or an answer many, many times over (hello, Ohm’s law, I still remember you though I still have no fucking idea what you really mean).
Some foreigners just got a taste of India’s unique sense of punishment when they flouted rules of the ongoing 21-day national lockdown, by deciding to go on a walk in Rishikesh in northern India, on April 11. Ten travellers—from Israel, Mexico, Australia and Austria—were caught taking a walk violating the rule that allows people to step out of homes for only essential work, but no real system in place to ensure the same. When caught by the Uttarakhand Police, they were each made to write 'I did not follow the rules of lockdown so I am so sorry' 500 times. More than 700 foreign tourists from the US, Australia, Mexico and Israel staying in the area are said to have flouted the lockdown rules.
“The police had been getting reports that some foreigners were defying the lockdown and coming to the Ganga stretch from Neem Beach till Sai Ghat in Tapovan to chill,” Vinod Kumar—the police officer in charge of the Tapovan police check post which lies in the area where the incident happened—told Hindustan Times. When the cops patrolled the area, they found the foreigners walking around, claiming that they thought “they can do so from 7 am till 1 pm when the lockdown is relaxed”. Kumar said, “I then asked one of my men to bring 50-60 blank pages from our check-post and gave five pages each to the 10 foreigners asking them to write ‘I did not follow the lockdown. I am sorry’ 500 times as punishment. After punishing them, I told them that it is a light one and if they refuse to do so then they will be blacklisted which will bar them from entering India again.”
Indian cops have resorted to bizarre punishments on other occasions as well—from making violators do sit-ups and squats to making them hold up a sign saying “I am a friend of coronavirus” or “I am the enemy of society” and posting their pictures on Twitter. While some of them have also been accused of using violent force and spraying teargas at migrant workers walking home, they’ve largely been lauded for their efforts to maintain what is the world’s largest lockdown, with some getting super creative and empathetic in their efforts to do so as well.
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