The police state in a stalemate

Maverick: The police state in a stalemate
By Farzana Versey
Covert column, June 1-15

A slum-dweller bent with age watched as the cop poked the lathi into the course cloth of his hut. Looking at the torn shreds later, he told me, “Every policeman must be shot dead.”

Next day there was a picture in the papers. A profile shot of a cop. The belly in khaki hung over the waist belt. The caption read: ‘Policemen ordered to keep fit’.

For what? To beat up that little man? To torture an innocent they have arrested only because of his caste or religious label and they need to fill their achievement registers?

Policemen too die in the course of duty; sometimes they commit suicide. Instead of examining the reasons, they are ordered to do yoga and stress management to reduce risk of mortality. But hard work kills no one; it is the petty politicking, the demands on the conscience that can take a toll. The honest few feel claustrophobic.

The policemen’s lobby comes out with explanations. The weapons are substandard. The force is inadequate to deal with mobs. Yet, the top guys use guest houses to relax in while riots rage a few kilometres away. Does anyone want us to believe that those who were shooting innocents in bylanes by standing on the roofs of houses, who provided no help to victims taking their own family members and friends to hospitals in carts, who demanded to watch television while they were ‘protecting’ the citizens, who joined forces with the goons are victims of misrepresentation?

They say the media fans disputes. It is this same media that is invited to turn up for a pre-planned reality TV version of encounter killings. Even as the cult of the supercop as a national asset, while being convicted for a misdemeanour himself, is given a pedestal from where he can twirl his silvery moustache, underworld gangsters rule in jail. They conduct their businesses on mobile phones and manage to procure women within the precincts where ‘justice has prevailed’? Arun Gawli quite relished his prison years and was more afraid of rival gangs.

A top cop had then told me, “I ask young criminals how many people they have killed and they say, ‘Saab kaun yaad rakhta hai?’”

Since the real lawbreakers are not afraid of them, the only way the police can assert itself is by arresting innocents. How many have an understanding of the common citizen’s needs? Most of them are deployed for security duty to look after the saabs and memsaabs.

Salman Khan’s police bodyguard went missing at the time of his deposition in court for the case where one person was killed and four injured when they came under his Land Cruiser. The cop was dismissed from the police force for his disappearance. Shockingly, no move was made to trace him. Isn’t it the duty of the cops not to lose such important evidence? What kind of system is this where a key witness, a cop at that, can vanish and reappear at will? The police knew where his family lived and in fact they had admitted him into a hospital earlier. How many such eyewitnesses get away because the cops are busy looking the other way?

Is it because private security agencies have now become the norm? Do they “complement and supplement the police force” as the cop told me? The private guys are better paid; the police don’t like that. The cops have a position; the private personnel feel insecure.

When it comes to the crunch, the crime has to be registered at a police station. We cannot encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

We are not looking for a user-friendly constabulary. We want people we can respect because they respect our rights – to property, to life, to self-esteem.

It is demeaning to see many of them being feted in the glossies for attending parties. It is even worse to watch a tough man in uniform walking behind a starlet known for her cleavage, which he is presumably in charge of protecting.

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