Hair Trigger Nation
By Poonam I Kaushish
Last week was telling. Underscoring three testaments. One: Our polity suffers from Orwellian syndrome ‘I-am-more-equal-than-you.’ Union Cabinet Minister Rane arrested for saying, “I would give Udhav Thackeray a tight slap” for ignorance of India’s independence years is released within 12 hours in Maharashtra last week.
However, six jailed for shouting anti-Muslim slogans at a New Delhi protest continue being denied bail. Encapsulating brutal reality: Citizens have no hope in hell. Notwithstanding, Supreme Court cautioning, arresting a person merely because it is lawful doesn’t justify arrest.
In Haryana an over-zealous officer tells police “Crack protesting farmers heads if they try to break barricades” in Karnal. In damage control Dy Haryana Chief Minister Chautala asserts, “This is not IAS ethics”. Adds Chief Minister Khattar “Obstructing official work is against democracy.”
Really? You could have fooled me given our MPs and MLAs behavior. Pandemonium in legislatures tearing official papers, breaking mikes, tables, climbing on Speaker’s table, coming to blows is the new normal. Alongside triggering violence on streets to settle scores with political rivals the new black.
Two: Netas-police jingle: Hum saath saath hain to protect themselves and make money. The Supreme Court accentuated India’s best secret: When a Party is in power, police takes side of ruling Party, when new Party comes to power it initiates action against those officials. In reference to sedition and disproportionate asset case against Chhattisgarh IPS officer Singh for disobeying Chief Minister Baghel’s order to file money laundering case against predecessor Raman Singh.
Earlier, a UP resident is arrested by police from Chennai for derogatory remarks against Centre’s Covid management and ex-Mumbai police Chief Singh accuses ex-Home Minister Deshmukh of asking him to collect Rs 100 crores from bars, restaurants etc. Any wonder mass transfers take place in police department with every change in Ministers.
Three: Police, with you, for you, never! A 9-year old is raped and burnt in a Delhi crematorium, the police refuses to register FIR. Ditto in UP when a man is killed by a cop’s two sons. Bihar’s prisons are notorious for criminals rushing to surrender after committing crimes as they have a nexus with police who provide protection in jail.
Turn to any mohalla, district, city or State the story is tragically the same. Be it a minor offence or major crime brutality and bestiality have become synonymous with the police. Want to get rid of somebody? Call up the “Policewala Goonda.” From bride-burning to road rage, out-of-court “settlements”, fake encounters and torture deaths, it has trapped all with bullet-proof precision. A milieu where police behave like bloodthirsty goondas with the State’s tacit backing. And we call ourselves a civilised society!
A case in point: A complainant goes to file an FIR. The SHO refuses to record the complaint if it pertains to netas, rich and powerful or demands money, threatens and shoos him away. A woman complainant is molested and raped, witnessed in various States specially notorious UP and Bihar.
If the FIR is against a corrupt policeman, God help. Who will investigate it? How will evidence be collected? As none of his tribesmen will do so, given the general tendency to protect one’s own. Leaving the complainant with limited options: Highlight his plight in media, write to higher authority and hope to hell that somebody will pay heed.
It is pointless to argue that the State has withered away as police still functions as per 1861 Police Act which provides it with a negative role: Protecting the Establishment. What of our polity? All know what is happening and umpteen Police Commissions have presented over eight reports. Only to be dumped in raddi and forgotten.
The crux: Who should control the police? Government or independent body? A Catch-22 question for our power-greedy polity to honestly answer and us to stupidly expect.
Alas, over the years police has misused and grossly abused its powers. Scandalously, it defies logic and accountability with impunity. “Compromises have become routine as threats of transfers to ‘insignificant’ posts, demotions and suspensions forces most policemen to toe their political mai-baap’s line. Consequently, they are used as an instrument of partisan agendas by Parties in power for their unsavoury ends and hostile to citizens,” confided a senior police officer.
A Police Commission report tells all: “60% of arrests are unnecessary, unjustified and unwarranted Police action accounted for 43.2% of jails expenditure. Hence, police has become more powerful, less accountable and checks and balances prerequisite of democracy have been dispensed with.”
Is police more sinned against than sinning? Are the main culprits politicians? The truth is midway. Both work in tandem in furthering their own self-interest resulting in the system becoming self-perpetuating. Whereby criminalization of politics has turned to politicization of crime and political criminals. Leading to complete brutalization and dehumanisation of both.
Time to stop political influence, change police mindset, improve public interface, prevent politicization, criminalization and corruption in the force. Supremacy of Rule of Law should be clearly spelt out and police guided by the Law having the legal option to disregard all instructions running contrary to that. Alongside, its administration and superintendence should remain exclusively under professional police supervisors and highlighted the vardi exists for aam aadmi’s service.
Besides over-centralisation should be replaced by complete decentralization and functional autonomy given to the force from SHO upwards with goals and objectives set with people’s cooperation. Resident Welfare Associations should help set priorities and goals. The standards prescribed for police recruitment, training and emoluments etc also need radical revision. The result: zilch.
Where lies’ India’s salvation from this leech-infested politico-criminal-police nexus? With citizenry hooting for answerability and accountability from netagan it is imperative we get our priorities right. Simultaneously there is need for a new-age policeman who is more professional, better motivated, equipped and trained with the latest technology and tactics.
Police leadership should shift from quantity to quality. It is better to have six Sub-Inspector than 25 semi-literate and ill-paid constables to prevent and detect crime in a police station. Competent officers should be posted in ‘difficult’ areas and given a stable tenure of at least 3 years to make a difference. Along-with improved weapons and greater mobility.
Our leaders’ better pay heed before it is too late. A revolutionary change in the operational command of police is the need of the hour as merely mouthing platitudes and inane, obsolete and muddle-headed formulations will no longer work. The Central and State Governments need to think beyond headlines. The bottom line: When push comes to a shove there is no easy option. Tough times call for tough action. Else be prepared for a trigger happy nation! — INFA