Need police reforms to professionalise it in the greater interest of democracy

News and views on CAB

The death toll in the anti CAA protests throughout the country has crossed 20. Situation in many parts of the country is tense and government has imposed section 144 in most of it. Many State governments have imposed section 144 for many days. State like Uttar Pradesh have it till January end but still protests have rocked the state.

The one
thing which come out of these protests is that while people at most of the
places are fighting for protecting the Idea of India enshrined in our
constitution, reading the preamble and feeling proud of our diverse heritage,
the police has been brutal in most of the cases particularly in the BJP ruled
states or in Delhi. There is no doubt that the force used so far has been
excessive and unwarranted and need serious thought whether our police and
administration really know how to manage people in 21st century or they still
suffer from the mindset of a 18th century when people challenging the
government or the power, were brutally repressed through danda and guns. We hope,
the saner people, the judiciary and all those who speak about police reforms
will look at the videos of the police actions in different parts of the country
and suggest what can be done.

I don’t
think that we can get away with merely critiquing the police and ignoring those
who actually are the real villain. The political leadership of this country has
always used police for their political gains. Police officials are actually at
the whims and fancies of the government and hence pressure on them to prove more
loyal. They have a duty to uphold the constitution and not to look upon people
who are protesting as anti-nationals or criminals but what seems to be
happening is that a large number of them ‘suffering’ from the ruling party’s
narrative about the opponent and hence we saw their aggressive face. When no
demonstrations or gatherings are officially allowed then how is Narendra Modi
being allowed to hold a big rally in Delhi after all people will come from
different parts of neighbouring states too. A law should be same for all but
then expecting police to stop PM’s political rally will be asking for too much.

Now look at
the nature of police violence. The glimpse can be found in Jamia as well as in
AMU where they entered in the hostels and were accused of firing, a charge the
senior officials flatly deny. In Mangalore, we saw videos of police lobbing
teargas shells inside a hospital and in Uttar Pradesh we saw videos of police
personnel indulged in smashing vehicles. Even if authorities want to suggest
that these videos are not from the authentic sources yet I feel that time has
come when all this should be fairly investigated. The DGP UP police has said
that police did not fire a single round. Similarly, Delhi police too claimed it
did not fire on protesters. If this has not happened then why are so many
casualties everywhere particularly in the BJP ruled states. It needs to be
investigated by a sitting judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court.

The problem
is that there seems to be a big divide now. The people who abused police during
the 1990 anti-Mandal agitation mostly organised by the savarna Hindus, today,
feel that police is doing good to beat up the ‘protesters’ as they are
spreading lies and rumours. We also saw during Anna’s agitation in 2011 that police
handled the agitation very well and the slogans were in the air that police have
sympathy with it. Why is this that police have been more brutal in its action
at the moment. Is it unable to understand the enormity of the protests or is it
under tremendous political pressure or is there a deep-rooted prejudice among
its officers and jawans against the Muslims and Dalits?

too are human beings and so are the protesters. Both are citizens of this
country and have faith in constitution. The regular political interference in
the work of police has made them look like the armed political worker of the
ruling party. This must stop. It is important that police be trained in
handling political protests and should not treat political opponents as goons.
Two photographs will haunt all those who believe in democracy. One, the
students of Jamia being forced to come out of their hostel with their hands up
and head down when the police raided it. The second photograph of the of Ram
Chandra Guha being physically pushed by the policemen and taken away during an
interview. These are not great signs of a vibrant democracy when police become
high-handed in dealing with the peaceful democratic protests.

It is
important for all the state government and political parties to ensure that
police be trained in managerial skills of crowed management and treat the
protest as party of robust democracy though I can say that even among the
protests there are many who instigate violence and hence it is essential for
all to ensure that the protest remain peaceful. Here the main issue is that
when protests are peaceful then why are they not allowed to pass through the
heart of the city? Is it because the netas of the ruling party don’t want the
protests to happen in the heart of the city? Most of the time, this become the
bone of contention giving the anti-social element to aggravate the tension and
the crisis. There is a dire need to all those who are responsible to maintain
peace at least handling political protests must be updated related to
international treaties and covenants of which India is a signatory so that they
know that each act of there is being observed and watched internationally.

There is no doubt that police have acted very reasonably in the states which are not ruled by the BJP or NDA. It clearly indicates that police highhandedness on protesters is not really the making of their own but of the ruling parties in the states and centre. Time has. when all that has happened during this period must be thoroughly investigated from purely the perspective of professional duties of the police in upholding the law. We desperately need police reforms otherwise we will only see chaos and blood in the streets whenever there will be mass protests. Will our ‘leaders’ allow the police and paramilitary to be professionals and not becoming their party cadres. It is time for judiciary to take a call on this to ensure police force become professional so that democracy remain vibrant and no innocent life is lost in any peaceful protests.

Bhushan Rawat

December 22nd, 2019