Could effective policing and good intelligence have made any difference to recent bursts of violence?
India has been witnessing violent incidents in the past couple of years and the question that comes to mind is why is the response by the police always reactive and inadequate
In a country full of adversarial diversities, civilised ways of addressing contentious issues have lost relevance. Several thousand crores of government and private properties were recently destroyed, rail and road journeys were disrupted causing inconvenience to people for months, hundreds suffered injuries in violence and normal economic activities remained disrupted. This periodic madness clearly shows, we have no desire to settle rival claims through mutual consultations and approaching judiciary. Or, why else Congress would demonstrate on streets hysterically if Rahul Gandhi is questioned by Enforcement Directorate for alleged money laundering, farmers would cause mayhem over agricultural reforms, misguided youths go on a rampage against Agnipath and clerics would use gullible Muslims to unleash riots to protect Islam.
The question that readily comes to mind is why police response to violence is always reactive, inadequate and delayed. Not that police are now severely short of equipment and human and logistical resources. Their intelligence wing is also reasonably well equipped and trained to collect advance inputs about criminals and their activities. But the fact is, even the best of police forces cannot combat marauders if morale is low and officers wait to know the priorities of their next political master.
Over the years, as politicians have become more and more corrupt, selfish and disproportionately ambitious, police officers have mastered the art of swimming with the tide to survive and protect their career. This explains why the same police is both effective and weak, clean and corrupt, stands up to the high and mighty and cowers, brings violent situations under control in quick time and looks the other way when rioters run amuck. It all depends on who is the chief minister in harness. Intelligence also suffers from the same malaise. Collecting information on criminals and mischief makers is now their part-time job. The main focus is on keeping a tab on party dissenters, political rivals and critics.
Today's police have become an indispensable instrument to express power of chief ministers. What better instrument can they have to torment opponents, oppress dissenting voices, acquire illegitimate wealth and show off his/her power. But the objective of that power and method vary from state to state. In UP, police officers enforce law and control crime with an iron hand, but in West Bengal, they terrorise BJP workers to join TMC and look the other way when Muslims, both settlers and infiltrators, indulge in riots, murder and bomb attacks, forcing thousands to leave their homes. In Jharkhand, rioters have a field day with police in attendance, for their chief minister believes that rioters have only made minor mistakes like all of us do. In Rajasthan, policemen look sideways when Hindu processions are violently attacked, while in Punjab police enjoy being spectators when Khalistanis raise slogans for an independent nation and honour Bhindaranwale.
Kerala police is a class apart. They register case against ED officers who are investigating their CM's alleged involvement in gold smuggling and take hardly any interest in stopping killing of RSS volunteers. Tamil Nadu police are busy in ransacking Hindu shrines, disrupting their processions and silencing their CM's critics and political opponents. In Bihar, police faithfully follow their CM who maintains a stoic indifference as state burns. Maharashtra police, of course, take the cake. They collect money for their home minister, hound a frail female Bollywood actress and a TV anchor and jail Rana couple for daring to chant Hanuman Chalisa.
It's an enigma why politicians do not realise that if leadership is changed, they will suffer the same fate by the same police. You can't really blame policemen for their chameleon role. They are a state subject and have to work under the direction of the political leadership. You make them independent like the CAG and Election Commission and see the difference. But no chief minister will ever take this call. There are still a few honest and courageous officers around but they generally sulk in inconsequential posts, hoping to join central police forces where political interference is miniscule.
(Amar Bhushan worked with the Research and Analysis Wing for 24 years after briefly serving in the BSF intelligence, State Special Branch and Intelligence Bureau. He served as the Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat before he retired in 2005.)
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