Denial of Justice to the Weak Dr.M.Manzoor Alam (SEPT.12, 2007)


Denial of Justice to the Weak

 …has created the monster of police lawlessness which threatens to undermine the larger society now, argues DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM


Consider this:

  •  The former police commissioner of Delhi KK Paul has been given Z-category security by the Union home ministry as he and his family are under threat from a subordinate officer who is said to be "absconding". Paul, a member of Union Public Service Commission, would under this category get guarded by a police posse 24 hours a day, his car would be preceded by a police jeep and followed by an escort car crammed with commandos. The man who is such a threat to his life is a mere inspector.


And consider this also:

  •   Recently in Bhagalpur town of East Bihar, a man evocatively called Mohammad Aurangzeb allegedly tried to run after snatching a lady’s gold chain. A crowd intercepted him and was giving him the beating of his life. At that moment two policemen landed on the scene and decided to give him the greatest experience of his life. They tied the miserable chap to their motorcycle naked above his waist, and dragged him through the town. The spectacle made it to TV news, which alarmed the state government. Bhagalpur had already earned its share of notoriety where an organised anti-Muslim riot continued for weeks without let in the late 1980s. The police were constantly hand-in-glove with the rioters who killed several hundred Muslims and destroyed property worth hundreds of crores of rupees. This relatively small town is also notorious for the blinding of half a dozen young men. Policemen had pierced their retinas with needles and poured acid into them. For the dragging (by the time his ordeal ended the dragged person was half dead) the two policemen were sacked. The state police have, in a display of terrible collective indiscipline, threatened to launch a strike if their sacked colleagues do not get back their jobs within a fortnight of their issuing the ultimatum.

Now, what do these two episodes show? The police force not only in Bihar (where Bhagalpur of riots, blinding and dragging fame is situated) and Uttar Pradesh (of Provincial Armed Constabulary revolt fame) but the national capital (where a lowly inspector becomes a big enough threat for a former police commissioner to warrant putting the harried commissioner in Z-category) also has become lawless. Similar cases of lawlessness of police force are found all over India.

Now ask another question: Why have the police become lawless? Who is responsible for this mess? There are several factors responsible for this but, to my mind, the most important is the larger society’s unwritten consensus to condone the police when they brutalise, kill and maim Muslims, Dalits, tribals, ordinary citizens.

Usually news reporting in our national dailies follows the liberal Western ways and confines itself largely to the details of the event reported. In the news columns (as against the edit and op-ed page stories) there is very little by way of elucidation or explanation. A pleasant exception to this rule was the news item in Metro Now (published from the national capital) about the Bihar police threatening to launch a stir if their two colleagues sacked for dragging the alleged chain snatcher did not get their jobs back. The concluding lines of the news item tell a truth that we all know, but is seldom addressed by the society or the system. The remarkable lines are: "The police force in India is seen by many as being a law unto itself, with some of its members quick to resort to corruption and brutality, especially when dealing with poor or low-caste people."

How true! But had I written those lines I would have phrased it differently to get it closer to the truth. For instance, I would have said "many of its members" rather than "some of its members", and expanded the categories of victims of police high-handedness from "poor or low-caste people" to include Muslims, Christians, tribals and other ordinary citizens.

As I said, we have come to this sorry pass because the larger society has developed an unwritten consensus to look the other way. That explains why the vocal sections of the larger society ferociously oppose the implementation of the Srikrishna Commission Report (which would bring to justice, among others, errant officials of Mumbai Police). Talk of making the guilty men in uniform who staged the massacre of Muslims in Muradabad, Maliana, Hashimpura and dozens of other places and you would be shouted down by these vocal sections of the influential classes. They come up with strange arguments in their favour: "Don’t open the Mumbai riots cases as it will divide society." But pursue the Mumbai blasts cases by all means.

This transparent dishonesty is threatening to undermine the whole society, not just the poor, the weak, Dalits, minorities and tribals. There are some hilarious aspects of this collective dishonesty. Take, for instance, the stance of these classes on a lathi-charge by UP police on a group of Uttranchal activists (just before that state was created). The same groups that don’t want the massacre of Muslims by policemen even mentioned in the media or at public platforms started baying for the blood of those policemen who had lathi-charged the crowd of Uttranchal activists. "We must have a Nuremburg-type trial" became a common refrain.

Oh, really? Yes you heard (or read) right. A Nuremburg trial for a lathi-charge. Obviously, this was as trivialising a reference to Nuremburg as it could be. It is this duplicity that has brought us to the sorry pass where we as a nation stand today. Only last month the celebrated Madhu Kishwar stated at an All India Milli Council convention on feeling of insecurity among Muslims. She said: "Of course, Muslims have been made to feel insecure. But there is another side to this. In today’s India all of us are insecure except netas, goondas and bribe-taking police personnel." To know more about who has brought us where we stand today watch this space.g


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