Open Letter to the Police Commissioner, Mumbai


I have received a notice from your office that has been sent to some local police stations and thence to the relevant buildings regarding an “imminent terrorist threat” and the precautions to be taken. I understand the importance of security measures, but most of the points you have brought in are applicable on a day-to-day basis and they are not followed. Therefore, what is the value of informing the citizens that this will be on until January 1st? What happens after that?

Within two kilometres of where I live, there is every place of worship and several bars and restaurants with liquor permits. On New Year’s Eve I believe most places will be allowed to remain open until the early hours of dawn and people will be drunk. Who will the cops keep an eye out for - those who might indulge in drunken misbehaviour or those who are praying? How do you judge suspicious-looking characters? The milkman may have a mean-looking moustache but is a hardworking guy who is earning his livelihood. You insist he should have an ID card when he visits the building everyday. You want those who deliver groceries and other essentials to show proof that they are who they are. The security guards should be more vigilant. Why only now? They should always be vigilant. You have not said anything about firecrackers; their sounds can create havoc both literally and figuratively.

The intelligence agencies have discovered that four terrorists have turned up in our megapolis. I find that rather curious. They have made sketches of these guys, which means they have no photographs and they have not been ever caught before. Apparently, they are supposed to hit at certain areas during the holiday season. This has created a fear psychosis and will only make the already pampered sections feel more pampered. They go around with personal bodyguards as well as police protection when there are extortion or other threats from the underworld.

I would like to know whether the letter I got has also been sent to the slums, for within this radius there are slum colonies too, the ones that have not been bulldozed yet or been forced out by builders who are part of the system. I don’t mind the naka-bandi, I don’t mind the frisking, the checking of vehicles. But do not invest too much power in the local residence associations. The tendency to become keepers of society can be a power trip. And they will create their own sub-sects of what and who is suspicious.

No one bothers when there is work going on in residences and labourers walk in and out without the owners bothered about being at home and putting their neighbours at risk; the security keeps no track and the incidence of crime can increase in such cases too. Therefore, how would filling in details in the security register help? Can people not lie? Most societies do not have watchmen from reputed firms, so who will keep track of them?

And why the need to sound apologetic about the presence of police personnel? This itself reveals that there is paranoia, not only about terrorists but the police force.

I assure you of all help, but I would also want to be assured that the poor people are not harassed only because they look suspicious to the rich, and that those drunken sods don’t mow down people sleeping in the footpaths or molest or ‘eve tease’ women and get away with it, and the noise decibels do not reach dangerous levels in what are clearly residential localities and there are hospitals around, too. Should there be any unfortunate mischief in a place of worship it should be treated as just that and not a terrorist act. We have seen this sort of cow-pig thing happen before, so let us grow up.

As a citizen and a loyal Mumbaikar, I do so hope that we can enter the new year when our minds are without fear.


PS: I hope you will keep the media out or else we will hear no end to stories of celebrities who just missed a potential threat by a whisker and how the bhajiwalla became a braveheart.

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