Policing a nation

Abhinav Kumar IPS weighs in on many issues, territory that uniformed officers of the state tread at great risk. The consequences often lead to the curtailment of promising careers. The vicissitudes of Kumar’s career makes it obvious that he is not the cynosure of the establishment’s eyes.

His latest column in The Indian Express makes for interesting reading. The piece is quite up his street. It is on the brutal killing of Station House Office Subodh Kumar Singh of Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh.

What Kumar says of cow vigilantes “actually killing a human being” by a mob angry that a cow had been slaughtered in the locality is cruel contrast to what the state’s chief minister seems wantonly unwilling to grasp.

While Kumar reminds us that this is not the first time a policeman has been killed in the line of duty, and he proceeds to say that the burning down of a police station in Chauri Chaura in 1922, which effectively ended the Civil Disobedience Movement, as an example of mob violence directed at the police seems inappropriate, to put it mildly.

A people emasculated by a colonial power considered the police as the coercive arm of the state. Do the people of independent India still think of the police so? I use the world emasculated for deliberate effect. The masculinity of the word being of operative intent.

But like Kumar suggests, we don’t need to go into history to know that Western Uttar Pradesh has been particularly cruel to the uniformed protectors of law and order. He cites Moradabad in 2011: an SSP beaten badly. 2016: an additional SSP done to death in Mathura. He reminds us that even Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad and so on have similar terrible tales to tell.

The danger for the Inspector General, BSF Kashmir Frontier, lies in ruffling the plumes of the Yakshikas (meaning: Gift of God) currently ruling both the state and country. There is no disputing the fact that “[t]he mobilisation of cow vigilantes is the obvious culprit.” The impunity of cow vigilantes did start with the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri. [Thanks to Aniruddha Bahal’s penchant for “investigative” journalism, we now can debate this instead, Latest Cobrapost expose claims Akhilesh govt pressured police authorities to change meat sample seized from crime scene in Akhlaq case.] But like Kumar warns us, let’s not “confuse the symptoms for the disease”.

Kumar says, “This incident is at the intersection of two sub cultures, the first a culture of impunity of the lynch mob, and the second a culture of servility of an emasculated and politicised police.” True. The lynch mob’s impunity has reached the status of a phenomenon with the right wing capturing power, but the servility of “emasculated and politicised police” force dates back to Forever.

There are other woes on policing that vexes Kumar. The inevitable mention of the “innumberable commissions” and the Supreme Court judgement in the Prakash Singh case (PDF) is to be expected. If Abhinav Kumar really wanted to be considered objective in his assessment of the problems facing  policing in India, a mention of the Moradabad massacre, Hashimpura and the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) as also Bhagalpur would have found adequate mention too in his column.

 

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