TOI Crest, 16 January 2010, 11:33am IST
Those who claim to see ghosts will always fear the dark. Babloo – not his real name – has seen the devil and will remain terrorised of it till his last day. A resident of Indira Nagar in Lucknow, the very sight of the colour khaki sends chills down his battered body. He has been seeing psychiatrists and undergoing therapy ever since he spent a harrowing seven days with the police some years ago. But things like a car battery, electricity cables, a cooking heater and pliers still scare the life out of him. When the police let him off – they wanted Babloo to confess to a murder he never committed – his ear lobes were charred, his palms were so swollen that they looked like pillows, and two of his toes had been sliced open after nails were hammered into them. But there are countless others who don’t have to be tortured to fear the police in India. It’s common for Indians to make way for cops when they are behind you, and walk at a safe distance when they are in front of you. Truant children are often threatened with a call to the policeman, as if they were some evil spirit. There is a dread, and it is all pervasive, all encompassing.
“This is because the police have no fear of punishment and there is total lack of accountability ,” says former IPS officer-turned lawyer Y P Singh. “And they are sure that the senior officers will always bail them out.”
Giving a more nuanced view, political scientist Imtiaz Ahmed says, “The explanation for the kind of police we have lies in the fact that we have a colonial police. Neither the structure nor the orientation of the police has changed. The colonial attitude – in which the only interest was to establish their rule at any cost – still persists. The police responds to the government, not to the people.”
He adds, “The police behaves the way it does partly because the recruitment of personnel comes mostly from the dominant castes in each area. For example, the Jats predominate in the Delhi and Haryana units, especially in the constabulary and above. The feudal attitude is there for all to see. They continue to be oppressive, carrying forward the characteristic in their interaction with the public. And the Indian state has become more khaki… The attitudes of dominance and coercion are reflected in various aspects of the state.”
Vikas Narayan Rai, DGP, Haryana Police Academy, feels the police can improve only if society is empowered. “By ’empowered’ I mean they should have the means to assert their legal right. In our country a person feels totally helpless whether he goes to a police station, a court, or a hospital. They should have rights that can be enforced. We have inherited our police from our colonial masters. The same system persists and now that I am associated with police training I realize what kind of training we are giving. They are being trained to deal with criminals and not with common people though 90 per cent of the time they are dealing with citizens . The mindset has to change and the police has to be sensitized, they have to be conditioned to the values of democracy, to the rights of the common citizen. That change of mindset is difficult to achieve after 200 years of colonial rule. But it is possible and it is being done.”
Former police and security supremo Julio Rebeiro has a solution. “It is very simple ,” he said. “The police force should be free from all political interference. Until this is done the force cannot be improved. The crux of the problem is the interference of the politician in the police department. Leave it to the commissioner of police to take all decisions , including transfers and postings from inspectors to deputy commissioners and above. The political godfathers decide the postings for better known reasons and the officers are not interested in serving society . It is time the government wakes up before the situation becomes worse.”
WITH INPUTS FROM REMA NAGARAJAN, S AHMED ALI, RAHUL TRIPATHI, PEVEZ IQBAL SIDDIQUI