Indian Police: Cops don’t CHANGE

If the police, especially the lower ranks, remains perpetually underpaid, trapped in abysmally unhappy work conditions, the state of pessimism will continue
Hardnews Bureau 

Memories of the old 'baghis' or rebels who picked up their guns and escaped to the ravines of the river Ganga and Chambal to fight the cruel State may have acquired a sepia tint, but there is no palpable change on the ground. Police still continues to be cruel, barbaric and oppressive. In rural India it sidles with rich landowners and the ruling class and provides support and spine to the forces of exploitation. Horror stories of rape, custodial violence, unlawful convictions and untold brutalities deepen the alienation towards a hard and cruel State. 

While the era of Daku Man Singh, Sultana Daku or even Phoolan Devi may be over, a new lot of baghis in a different avatar is stalking the Indian firmament. They are the Maoists. While there may be a plethora of socio-economic and political explanations for the rise of the Indian Maoist, what is largely ignored is the conduct of the police and how they should deal with common people or aam admi. Witness the atrocities unleashed by the Salwa Judum and Chhattisgarh police on the tribals in the state. Indeed, the so-called "uprising" against the CPM government at Lalgarh took place as a reaction to the mindless violence of the police on the local people.

This followed after the combined police-CPM cadre violence, killings and rape at Nandigram. Worse, the state government believed in the police version about Maoist infiltration and their growing recalcitrance rather than the pleadings and cries of the people of Lalgarh that they were basically protesting against relentless police brutalities. The pigheadedness of the CPM government backed by a clueless Delhi saw the uprising being crushed by a hammer. 

Expectedly, the police operation in Lalgarh gave a new profile to the Maoists and they were projected as a potent force that can take on the might of the Indian State. At no stage was a thought spared for the circumstances which triggered off the Lalgarh fire. It would have been wise to revisit some of the police reform reports gathering dust in the home ministry and look at reorienting and retraining the men in khaki. In the absence of any major shake up in the training and mindset of police, they would remain in the words of late Justice Anand Narain Mullah, "dacoits in khaki"

From the Northeast to Kashmir, police brutality is endless. If women are afraid of going to police stations, even in the day, if the police refuses to lodge legitimate civilian complaints and sides with the accused, if the police is loaded in favour of the rich and powerful, and are naturally dismissive or exploitative of the poor, the fruit vendor, the roadside hawker, the landless labourer or tribal, the colonial syndrome of the police as anti-people will continue. If the police, especially the lower ranks, remains perpetually underpaid, trapped in abysmally unhappy work conditions, the state of pessimism will continue.

If India has to modernise, then we have to begin with those whose responsibility is to maintain law and order. People who join the police force to accept bribes, loot and exploit will erode the credibility of the Indian State. If India has to become a sensitive and caring country, then the essence of its cruel police force should change.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: DECEMBER 2010

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Comments

Indian Police: Cops Don't Change

Well said! The lower-ranked khakis may well be underpaid, but I can't see them changing their loutish behaviour until their khaki superiors spend less time looking for ways to stuff their own pockets. As long as top cops engage in corrupt practices and are seen getting away with it too,many among the underpaid and frustrated cops will continue to follow them.