February 4, 2007

All we have successfully created is a spineless police force

I still remember reading somewhere that a few years ago, when a contingent of police in an Indian metropolis had gone to confiscate some contraband computers and CDs, all that they did was to seize the monitors (assuming them to be the computers, while they left the CPUs behind) and contracted labourers to staple all the seized CDs (as they felt that they might get infected by some ‘dreaded’ computer virus). This might sound hilarious to many, but this incidence reveals more than a crude joke. Whenever you think of an Indian policeman, the picture that evolves is:

semi-literate men (as there are hardly any women), armed with antiquated weapons (the worst of them date back to the era of World War I and the best to four decades back), a pittance of a salary (breeding unabashed corruption), stained and un-ironed uniforms (showcasing the attitude), rusty vehicles, overstretched working hours (as there is one policeman for almost 700 citizens), and with a constant fear of persecution from the ‘masters’. It seems that there has been a well thought out conspiracy to create such a police, which neither understands nor questions the predicaments of the existing system. No wonder the shape of things inside the country looks so bleak.

But, why blame the police every time? You first stifle them with some Jurassic age archaic laws, then expect them to do something that is unheard of in the other parts of the world, to investigate crimes, chase criminals and maintain law and order, and all at the same time. You expect them to work tirelessly throughout their life without expecting a promotion, perk or a salary hike. When asked by their ‘masters’, you expect them to catch anti-national and anti-social elements and then ask them to charge-sheet the former under some slippery Acts (because the stringent anti-terrorist acts have been done away with, keeping in mind the vote-bank politics) so that those anti-nationals and anti-socials (some of them are even Parliamentarians) hire the most expensive professional lawyers and slip away from law. And blame the police for the same.

When Nithari happened, it wasn’t a surprise for me because whatever happened and whatever callous way the cops acted, has been the norm rather than an exception. Actually, there isn’t much difference between the Nithari, the Priyadarshini Mattoo or the Jessica Lal case. The high and the mighty have perennially and thoroughly taken advantage either by buying the pauperised cops or bending the laws to their benefit and pulverising the honest and the sincere ones with some punishment transfers to some obscure place.

The condition is worse when it comes to India’s fight against organised crimes, and repealing the stringent anti-terror laws like POTA has not helped either. Today, every terrorist organisation worth its name, be it the Islamic jihadis, the North-East militants or the Naxalites, have a pan-India presence, or at least have a regional presence that permeates our State borders while the law does not permit State police to go beyond the borders. The resultant effects are such that the respective police departments in various States have developed an attitude of passing the buck to their counterparts in adjoining States (remember the perennial dramas in the hide and seek game between the Karnataka Police and the Tamil Nadu Police?) The effect of all this is the entire internal security of the country has gone for a complete toss. But who cares? Neither has any government ever empowered the police, nor do we have an FBI-type institution with a pan India enforcement jurisdiction. CBI, though empowered, is more of a prosecuting agency for the Central Government, which can come into action only if the Centre permits and the State government relents. And the usual Centre-State fight over turf makes it sure that impediments outdo the benefits of having CBI in the place. But the difference in this empowerment tells the story. While the 1993 Mumbai blast case was handled by the CBI, the Parliament attack case and the blasts in Delhi before Diwali in 2005 were handled by the Delhi Police. In the former case, even though it took 13 years, the perpetrators are eventually getting convicted. On the contrary, the Parliament attack investigations have been such that almost all, barring one, have been acquitted. The Supreme Court, while acquitting S.A.R. Geelani, also admitted that his conduct during the blast was not above suspicion, putting the blame squarely on the Delhi Police.

Though every time all the fingers point at the khaki, but the real villains of peace have been the politicians and State governments who have always treated the police force as their personal fiefdom for their self serving interests. With no concerns on internal security, they constantly resisted reform, citing usual nonsensical and illogical concepts of interference of the Centre in State affairs. Today, it is sad that the title havaldar has become so demeaning that it is used more as a slang. It is most unfortunate that a profession, which is looked upon with respect in other parts of the world, has been made to become the most vulnerable and disrespected in our country.

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