The way Hyderabad police gunned down four people today makes it seem that we’ve successfully converted our police into a gang of murderers. It’s a custodial killing. The police can’t be given the right to behave as the investigator, judge and executioner. The saddest part is that a lot of people in the country are celebrating it when they should be opposing it tooth and nail.
It’s extremely unfortunate that such police violence is getting encouragement in our society. You hear people in Parliament talking in support of mob lynching. Why do we then need police and courts at all if mobs can dispense justice?
We’re making the country cruel, less civilized. Look at what the UP police is doing for the past two and a half years. I have read reports of scores of incidents where the police shot the suspects or accused in the leg. Only an inane person can think of it as justice. It’s plain injustice.
If the British had behaved like Hyderabad police, they would have shot Bhagat Singh dead in an encounter. Why did they need to prosecute him in a court for months? The same way, they might have got Gandhi, Nehru and Patel killed in a police encounter.
In addition, I’m certain that the encounter killing has happened on orders from the highest levels of Telangana government. Even the CM must have been involved. It cannot happen without the sanction and patronage of the chief minister and state home minister.
The IPS leadership is equally guilty. It might be a constable or a sub-inspector who pulled the trigger, but they acted on the orders of the police officers. It’s the IPS officers who tell the rank and file that they’ll be rewarded if they do it, and punished if they don’t.
This pattern was evident in the Hashimpura massacre case of 1987 too. (The PAC of UP police killed 42 Muslim men who were in its custody). Those who pulled the trigger got the punishment, but those behind them escaped. If a CBI enquiry happens in the Hyderabad incident, the constable level policemen will get punished but those who actually made them do it will go unpunished.
However, the most disturbing part remains that the police atrocity is getting social acceptance. When the Bhagalpur blindings happened in 1979-80 (the police blinded 31 under trials), the city people came out on streets in support of the police. Nothing could be more shameful. It means that our courts and the entire justice delivery system has failed.
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It's when people start feeling they won’t get justice from the courts that they look up to the police in desperation. It’s shameful and must be opposed. You prosecute the accused, conduct a speedy trial, and give them the death penalty – even though I feel it must be abolished.
There is an old maxim: It’s not the severity of punishment but the certainty of it that deters. You can legislate a punishment of 20 years but if you don’t punish anybody, it won’t be effective. Instead, if there is 20 months of punishment under law and the culprit is brought to book within three months, that will carry more impact.
(Vibhuti Narain Rai is a retired IPS officer and the author of Hashimpura 22 May: The Forgotten Story of India's Biggest Custodial Killing)
-- As told to Salik Ahmad