Police in British India were mandated to interact with people and keep records. But the practice has long been abandoned and there now seems to be a complete breakdown of communication between the community and the police. Police reforms must start with something as basic as communication.
Take the gruesome December 16 gang-rape case in Delhi. Everyone in the slum knew that Ram Singh, one of the accused, was a ‘mental case’. Newspaper reports informed us weeks ago that Ram Singh had an unsavoury reputation, a short temper, a wayward life and a glad eye. So much so that his younger brother decided to leave the slum with his family. It was not safe to leave his wife behind, he had concluded.
Was Ram Singh then mentally sick ? The answer is certainly in the affirmative. People who are mentally unhealthy or unstable do not always tear their clothes, laugh uncontrollably or claim to be the Prime Minister, as popular cinema has led us to believe. They can appear to be perfectly ' normal' people, lead seemingly ‘normal’ lives like Ram Singh did, and only occasionally blow a fuse.
But the local police station of course had no clue. In all likelihood, the local policemen had never visited the slum. And almost certainly, the policemen would not know anyone there by name. Unless the residents there committed a crime or got killed, there was no reason for the policemen to bother about anyone living in the slum.
Nor did anyone in the slum think it necessary to report to the police. There was no occasion to do so. What’s more, why trouble trouble till trouble troubles you ? People are not encouraged to interact with the police. In any case ‘complaining’ to the police would have been futile and merely make the complainant a ‘marked man’. It is surely bliss to be ignorant.
While the nation debates on police reforms, demanding implementation of the recommendations made by various Police Reform Commissions, it is doubtful if any reform will work unless better communication is ensured between the community and the uniformed force. Better police stations, more vehicles, better communication equipment, more women etc. are unlikely to make much of a difference unless the community and the police learn to trust and respect each other first.
Communication is hardly any better with the middle class. The ‘decent folks’ in the cities may fear the police less but their contempt for the uniformed force is as much, if not more. They choose to live in their own, separate worlds, barely acknowledging the existence of the other. A small section may rub shoulders with the police brass, socialise with them or have a ‘business’ relationship. But the vast majority of the people prefer to be left alone and , given a choice, would have nothing to do with the police. In turn, the uniformed force remains ignorant of the folks living in gated communities in our cities.
We do not expect a visit of the local police officer unless he has a bad news to convey. For a police officer to invite himself over for a cup of tea is unthinkable. To even visualise a police officer knocking on the door and seeking permission to spend some time exchanging small talk stretches our imagination. And policemen certainly do not think it is part of their duty to get to know the residents in their jurisdiction.
It is easy enough to see the advantages of such interaction though. The people would overcome their fear of the police and the uniformed force would gather information and inputs they otherwise would not. The quality of policing would improve and a relationship based on mutual trust and respect would hopefully be restored.
Better technology cannot be a substitute for the community’s trust in its police force. If the SHO, the DCP or the ACP is on first name terms with a large majority of the people they serve, the men lower down the hierarchy would no longer be able to bluff their supervisors; their attitude to people would change because of the very real possibility of people directly complaining to their bosses.
It is not as if the police never did this before. The police in British India were mandated to go for rounds and record their findings on their return. The Inspectors would often set off on their bicycle, as an IPS officer pointed out, stop to have a cup of tea and exchange gossip. They would have lunch in one village or locality and their afternoon tea in another. In no time they would get to know of simmering disputes, family trouble, rogues and potential trouble makers.
On their return to the police station, they would be required to write down their findings. The diaries would prove to be invaluable in preventing trouble, whenever trouble broke out or when a new SHO took over. He no longer had to start from scratch and learn of the community and the ‘mental cases’, the rogues and the unemployed. The diary would empower him with the information.
Such intimate knowledge of the community would arguably have helped the police in preventing mishaps like the Delhi gang rape. If the local police station had any idea of Ram Singh, his joy rides, his drunken bouts and his cronies, chances are that they would have stumbled upon his past record. The police could then have reported Ram Singh’s condition to the counsellors and alerted the schools from which he ferried students and transport authorities to look more closely into the permits and driving licence issued by them. The least the police could have done was to slap him with a warning. A bond of good behaviour under section 107 of the CrPC need not come into use only during communal riots but can be used effectively to put a check on elements like Ram Singh.
But the police unfortunately does not take their preventive role seriously enough. There have been attempts by well-meaning police officers to patronize local youth clubs, invite the community to police clubs, set up public gyms and libraries in police stations or put up plays to bring the community closer. But they have been individual initiatives and ceased every time the individual was transferred out. The answer squarely lies in institutionalising community policing. But the police and the people seem content to blame each other. They neither understand each other nor are they convinced that any such understanding is required.
The differences are now so ugly that sections of the people are determined to demonise the police, mocking them for reacting late, for being too lenient or too aggressive, for being stooges of politicians and of being insensitive. Policemen in turn blame people for being ignorant of the law, for breaking the law and for being reckless and irresponsible.
The hard reality is that policing cannot be privatized, outsourced or auctioned. As it is, private security guards outnumber policemen in every city. But there is no coordination between the two parallel security systems and there is no synergy between the community and the police either.
Policing cannot be done without pride. Just as army jawans are motivated by a sense of sacrifice, policemen and women need to take pride in what they do for them to be effective. This cannot be achieved by merely handcuffing and beating up the criminals after the crime has been committed. Any moronic police force can do that. But it requires a lot more finesse and skill to prevent crime from taking place. While the community needs to recognise the vital role of the police, respect the police and trust the police, they will do so only when the police learns to respect the community and trust the people.
If every person seemed to act in interest of self defense to himself, then his case would not be heard, probably, because he would most probably have expired. In this case, perhaps following the letter and spirit very considerately, might make a person, not sorry.
The law is very evident, when people need it. When the law is enforced whereas there is inadequacy in the situation, or where people commit acts regardless of law, or lawlessness, then some people might regard the law, as very sacrosanct, perhaps. This is extremely normal, and people might see the unusual. If the law is seen to exist, in a certain manner, then people act in a certain way.
There is a program, called media manthan in Rajya Sabha T. V., D D. The idea that a modern lady in a saree of material not traditional, should not walk with a man in a business suit, on a long table, when it doesn't matter to others, lady or gentleman, seated around the table. I mean, no one is supposed to notice, and that this comes up, in fora, where people say it makes others uncomfortable, makes me wonder whether 'others' are also the people who object. I am speaking of an ad., where this doesn't happen at all, in reality. People would certainly mind if the women and men seated on the table, had dhoti kurta, or pyjama kurta, and traditonal sarees as attires. I mean, what does it suggest, if a man wearing a dhoti or pyjama, was watching a lady walk on a long table even in an ad.? It seems coercion, where the lady is the person who invited the coercion, even if not. Can we accept this, if we wear business suits, and appropriate modern sarees to match, is the question. That the person wearing a dhoti kurta, or pyjama kurta, is at the long table, is not a problem for the person in the national dress. Was he supposed to be?
The social scenario in India is perhaps perceived by some, as thus: Industry pollutes the Ganga, upstream from Benaras, and the same people who promote industry, say that people must not 'throw' the ashes of departed people, into the Ganga. Also, dead flowers, and what people see as rites associated with the river. The grand idea around religious people in India, including people in industry, is that the Hindu religion is so lofty, mighty and profound, that the people who pray in Beneras, don't mind the affluence from industry going into the Ganga. They drink the water, bathe in it, and do what is prescribed in religion. The same industrially enlightened people, say that Hindu's spread myths. about Gods, and created the caste system, and subjugated people, including people like me, in society. I mean, the 'religious people', are now promoting 'industry' in India? People talk about education for all? I mean, people like me, feel they are doing India a service by becoming M. B. A.'s? Also, women in Hinduism, can kill children who are born to them. Today, they abort foetuses like they use certain items for personal hygene, and only female foetuses are forbidden to be aborted. How are women going to be respected, even in parliament, or the state and central cabinet, in this situation? The govt. does not say pollute the Ganges, it does not say abort children, and they have to say, because we are Indians, that this is recommended, if you must. This is what the social is, in India.
The concept of policing is very different in India. They basically enforce law and order and provide protection to politicians and other mighty. Public safety is not a concern for the police. In fact they misuse their power to intimidate general public. Many policemen are themselves rapist. There is too much political interference.
Few years back US President's daughter Jenna Bush was arrested by a regular cop in Texas for possessing and consuming alcohol as a minor. This will be unimaginable in India. Remember Jessica Lal’s murder by Manu Sharma. Had it not been a public outcry, he would have gone free.
In India many police officers view victim at fault when rape occurs.
Then comes the societies’ attitude from where police pool is recruited. I bet in Delhi at least 25% guys would have passed lewd comments on a passing girls. At least 10% guys would have groped one or more girl in Delhi buses. This thing is accepted as normal.
Let’s look at our middle class, how much freedom daughters enjoy in comparison to sons?
Even journalist like Karan Thaper will resort to corrupt practices to get his drivers kid admitted to a school (see link)
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