Public Order, VIP Assignments & Emergencies: Role Of Police
Action by Police, mild, tolerable or excessive by them, is not something which could be termed exceptional or rare-be it normal time or in the midst of natural calamities and emergencies, such as, Cyclones, floods, landslides, riots or Covid waves. Performance by their front runners is mostly supposed to be a readymade ‘masala’ for the journalistic or NGO adventurers or heroics.
2) Since 1947 we seem to have turned a Welfare state vis a vis Police state that may have been prevalent earlier under a Constitutional Monarchy.
3) For the purpose of a fact finding or an analysis, it is proposed to take up a few international and domestic episodes, Police may have ignored, caused perpetrated or encouraged.
4) First and foremost is the one pertaining to heinous homicide of George Floyd, an African-American, on 25 May,2020 by Derek Chauvin, a former police officer for which latter has been sentenced to 22.5 years. It is one of the longest prison terms ever imposed on a U.S. policeman in killing a black. Abuse of position of trust and authority is reported to have been established coupled with a particular cruelty shown to the victim. World wide supporters who had led the biggest outcry against racial injustice in the U.S., in generations, did not appear fully satisfied but they eventually have peace of mind. Is’nt such a quick sentencing a rare event?
5) A comparison of this case with Nirbhaya rape case of Delhi(Dec.2012) may reflect some similarity in terms of speed of investigations and quantum of punishment but it remains to be seen as to when the convicted U.S. police officer actually makes it to jail. One regrets very much the delay of over seven years in actualisation of punishment by the trial and other courts & authorities in the Nirbhaya case even though Delhi police had performed remarkably well, duly supported by the” quick fire” Verma Committee Report. Such a rapid disposal rarely takes place in rape or severe assault cases having common men as victims. Another advantage the U.S. police had was in terms of murder being seen all over the world through live video recording becoming viral in seconds. In Nirbhaya case such an outright advantage, prosecutors did not have.
6) In the second category would come gory incidents of mass killings of civilians by triggering of car bombs or suicide bombers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Brutal killings of the innocent citizens, mostly by the cross fires in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Israel or Sri Lanka in distant past always shakes our imagination. Inhuman murder of more than thirty thousand people in the name of Boko Haram(literal meaning- Western Education Is A Sin) for years and recent killings of 111 people by their “Child soldiers” and unprovoked homicide of thirty civilians by terrorists in Somalia speak volumes about failure of local police and security agencies in pre-empting such incidents. Needless to say, these happen in a situation when Police in most of the countries has been provided with the latest arms, ammunition, gadgets and relevant communication aids.
7) Also international co-operation in terms of Police- Police agreements and treaties, Extradition treaties, quick action by Interpol ,regional police conferences etc are very much possible now. Exchange and sharing of information as also intelligence cutting across boundaries is possible due to rapid computerisation and availability of mediums, such as, Internet, Whatsapp, Telegram, Social Media etc.
8) Back home, the recent death of a Woman Chairperson in U.P. due to holding of traffic on account of State Visit to Kanpur by the President of India was unwarranted when duty policemen were already requested by the relatives about serious condition of the Chairperson. When finally she was being cremated, late condolence message on behalf of the VIP hardly mattered. Irreparable damage was already done on the same pretext as in several cases of POLICE IMMUNITY & BRUTALITY on the highways and thoroughfares when critical Covid patients were being taken from hospital to hospital, during both the waves of Corona in the country.
9) Talking of Police behaviour relating to motorcades accompanying the President and the Prime Minister in the past, strict instructions were desired both by Late President Kalam and Late P.M. Gujral NOT to block traffic on both the sides during their movement but such instructions and compliance thereof donot last long and the common men, especially the office goers and students have to suffer.
It may be necessary to also mention the sober attitude of late P.M. Vajpayee. When a young woman suffered spinal injuries due to sudden stoppage of traffic to enable his motorcade to pass near his residence, he called the woman concerned when being informed and offered his sincere regrets, apart from any help he could extend in her treatment.
10) But in real life all VIP’s do not display such a humanity. Policemen in general believe in excessive use of power even on occasions of national holidays. Many of them refrain from showing the expected sensitivity and caring attitude in public life.
One should not forget that the former R.D. Minister Gopinath Munde died prematurely in 2015 due to sudden application of brake by his driver which itself was as a result of change of “Red Light” at an early hour of 5 or 5.30 am, when same was not at all necessary, keeping in view low volume of traffic. This shows that while availing modern technology we also fail in applying our mind.
11) It is not that corrective or reformative steps are not taken either by the Courts or the State Police or for that matter, National and State Human Rights Commissions and the Human Right Responders/Activists. Irrespective of positivities, such as, compensations ordered by the NHRC, cases go haywire, if not cross “limits”. These happen everywhere at the drop of hat.
12) In the early 90’s, thanks to the exemplary initiatives of Justices Krishna Iyer and P.N.Bhagwati, the Judges of Supreme Court, Public Interest Litigation(PIL) took birth. Under this pro-people mechanism a public spirited citizen (be it a Journalist or a Lawyer or an NGO) could attract attention of Supreme court or a High Court,towards the trials ,troubles and tribulations of innocent undertrials languishing in the dark confines of unhygienic jails for years. Even a Post card addressed to the Court was treated as a Writ Petition.
13) The Rudal Shah case of 1984 taken up by Supreme Court at the instance of Sheela Barsey, a firebrand Advocate, not only shook the cognition of entire nation, it also led to many desired changes in the attitude and behaviour patterns of both the State Police and Courts. Despite it, number of innocent undertrials and first time offenders has become has outnumbed the convicts. This, however, may call for a separate discussion.
Constraints on Police Side.
14) To be fair to the force, we normally do not prick our brain to realize, how much of anxiety turned depression, an average bottom rung cop undergoes 24×7 ?.If the duty commences at 9 am, poor chap has to report at 7 am. No one realizes even a bit, forget about taking a cognisance of same. Generally one notices that a constable under “close watch” of Public Eye is often caught in a sort of storm, despite being entitled to 13 month salary. It may not be a Gospel truth,but factually correct in the NCR that rather highly qualified constabulary is often found also involved in recruitment, extortion, real estate disputes and human trafficking.
15) Unfortunately, the sanguine issue of training/refresher needs of the Constabulary is not a regular affair. As a result, they rot and struggle and some of them also strike at their superiors in course of irritating & unproductive protection assignments, apart from a negligible percentage indulging in extra marital affairs. Latter happens, however, mostly in prosperous pockets if media reports have an iota of authenticity.
To sum up, a right and relevant question may be posed :
How many of public oriented citizens or NGO’s have taken serious view of unsung work of Punjab police in supressing rather, eliminating terrorism, Mumbai Police in tackling smugglers and drug peddlers or containing umpteen riots and serial bomb blasts or of Delhi Police during 2020 Feb. end “Caused “ riots as also the unwarranted Kisan Stir on 26th Jan,2021?
Has Restrained and Matured Behaviour on their part, Any Parallel?
Ironically, we took 71 years in erecting a decent memorial for Saheed Sipahis..
The author is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim