Written by Asghar Ali Engineer · September 02, 2008
The role of police in democratic society is very different from that of police in colonial society. However, it is 61 years now that India became independent and there is no change in the role of police a wee bit. Today our police have become even more colonial in its attitude. The British colonial rulers had enacted the police an act in 1861 to use the police for suppression of people’s movement and to terrorize colonized people. Our police too is terrorizing innocent people fighting for their rights.
Though human rights are really very central to functioning of democracy, and, human dignity even more important for functioning of any secular democratic set up, irrespective of caste, creed or color. Yet our police are highly caste conscious and communal in attitude with few honorable exception. Over and above all this corruption has deeply seeped into the force. Also, our IPS officers are totally subservient to political bosses who use them for their own political interests. They are even ready to kill in false encounters innocent people at the instances of political bosses without any compunction as we saw in Gujarat.
I am writing this article because of gross misuse of office by the police in many cases of arrest of innocent people after bomb explosions and open cases of partisanship in communal violence in recent riots. It is my considered opinion that if ruling authorities do not take these cases of police excesses, it will have serious consequences and would create serious problems. There is no sense of fairness and respect for law the way police has been working in India in almost all the states.
First I would refer to the public hearing of the victims of police excesses in the name of ’solving’ the bomb blast cases. The organizers of public hearing Anhad, Human Rights Law Network and PEACE, Delhi had constituted a jury comprising distinguished people. Justice S.N.Bhargava (retired Chief Justice, Sikkim High Court), Justice Sardar Ali Khan, retired High Court Judge, Asghar Ali Engineer, K.G.Kannabiran (National president, PUCL), Prashant Bhushan, Advocate Supreme Court, Dr. Ram Puniyani (retired professor IIT, Mumbai) Prof. Rooprekha Verma (retired Vice Chancellor, Lucknow University, Mr. Kingsukh Nag, Editor Times of India and Lalit Surjan, Editor Deshbandhu, Raipur. This was indeed very distinguished jury and cases of police excesses and torture we heard were really very disturbing.
Since there were distinguished judges and an eminent lawyer on the panel well conversant with law they cross examined the victims and satisfied themselves. Every case appeared to be of false arrests and torture by police for confession. The interim observations of the jury were that the testimonies showed that a large number of innocent young Muslims have been and are being victimized by the police on the charge of being involved in various terrorist acts across the country. This is particularly in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, though not limited to these states.
The panel of jury also observed that “In most cases, the persons picked up are not shown to be arrested by the police until many days after their arrest in gross violations of the law. Their families are also not informed about their arrest. In many cases they have been tortured in police custody and made to ‘confess’ and sign blank papers. The police has been often humiliating Muslim detainees on the ground of their religion. The testimonies show widespread communalization of the police across states in the country.”
The jury also observed that in most of these cases, the Courts are routines allowing police remand and not granting bail, merely on the police statements that they are required for further investigations. They do not examine whether there is any evidence against the accused. Unfortunately, the media too uncritically publicizes the charge and allegations leveled by the police. This has resulted in the destruction of the lives and reputation of a large number of persons so picked up by the police who have later been found to be innocent.
This is alienating the community besides allowing real culprits to escape and it has grave consequence in the sense that bomb explosions continue as real culprits are never nabbed. The communal discrimination is also very obvious when persons belonging to Sangh Parivar like VHP or Bajrang Dal are found making bombs, they are either not arrested or if arrested, easily released on bail. Though Bajrang Dal and VHP cadres have been found involved in number of violent activities, the political set-up headed by the Congress, has never thought of banning these organizations.
One can say it is becoming world -wide phenomenon as Muslims are being treated like this even in USA, UK etc. Though it is true but that cannot be an excuse for the police of a secular democratic country like India to behave in this lawless manner. On top of it the Sangh Parivar is demanding re-imposing draconic laws like the POTA which will prove to be an absolute disaster. In this law self-confession is treated as valid proof and we all know how the police obtain such ‘confessions’. If such laws are ever brought the innocent citizens who are tortured to obtain confession will have no legal remedy and police will run amok.
It is high time the Central Government gives serious thought to such mal-functioning of the police and lawlessness in this force which is supposed to be guardian of law. It may be too late. And if it is true (though by means proved) that bomb explosions in Ahmedabad or earlier blasts in train in Mumbai were acts of revenge, one can imagine the consequences of such unlawful acts of police in states above named. Not only that real culprits will escape for failure of police to nab real culprits and finding easy solutions by arresting innocent people, but also those tortured by the police and harassed may seek their own revenge. In any case, even if that does not happen, it does not bode well for future of our democracy.
Police And Communal Riots
The partisan behavior of police in communal riots is a well-known phenomenon. The government has never taken serious steps to remedy the situation. I have myself investigated several communal riots and found the police behavior towards Muslims totally unacceptable. What happened recently in Digras and Pusad towns of Yewatmal district of Vidarbha is an hair raising story of police behavior towards Muslims.
In fact these riots were provoked by members of Sangh Parivar after some Muslim youth attacked some shops of Hindus after a copy of the Qur’an was found on the road with shoes kept on it. The Sangh Parivar took out procession shouting provocative slogans and police never tried to stop them. The Parivar members attacked Muslim shops and communal violence broke out. Before that many Muslims had gathered outside Jama’ Masjid Digras and were quite excited.
But Sheher Qazi Syed Bashiruddin pacified them and asked them to disperse peacefully. He saved a bad situation from worsening. But when Sangh Parivar people attacked Muslim shops some Muslim boys from Gauripara and Sambhajinagar came out with swords but were stopped by the police on the bridge on Dhavda River. And then the police launched an offensive on Gavdipada and Sambhajinagar where there are 80 per cent Muslims.
They crashed into Muslim houses and looted everything there and even smashed TV sets fridges and everything that there was in their houses. They even smashed drinking water pots and disconnected water connection to these two areas. It is Hindu neighbor who provided drinking water to these Muslims. From one house the police took away 80,000 rupees which a poor man had saved for his daughter’s marriage.
The police smashed Skoda vehicle of Noor Mohammad who is ex-president of Digras Municipality. Besides that they smashed many other vehicles etc. belonging to Muslims. This police operation was ordered by SP Police Shri, Shivaji Rao Bokhade and boasted before Mr. Suresh Khairnar, a human rights activist who had gone there for investigation that I have taught them (Muslims) a proper lesson and for coming 10 years they dare not raise their head again.
What is more shocking is that RAF and SRP people crashed into the house of Sheher Qazi who had pacified the Muslim crowd and disperse peacefully and beat up his brother who was dumb and smashed his sewing machine and struck blows to his son Maulana Zafar and broke his hand. The Muslims of Digras said there is no problem between Hindus and Muslims but between Police and Muslims. Hindus actually helped us and took care of us.
Chief Minister Deshmukh was made aware of all this by a delegation of Muslims from Digras but he took no action at all and today (i.e. 30th August) he went for a function to Yewatmahal but did not bother to go to Digras which is in that district despite knowing fully well what the police did there. As pointed out before police is the most lawless force in our country. I am simply horrified by all this.
The role of police in Orissa has been equally shameful. It stood by when Bajrang Dal and VHP hoodlums attacked Christians and looted or burnt their properties. Not only that the Police remained mere spectators when these hoodlums did all this when curfew was in force. Our police force is highly communalized and these prejudices become powerful block in preventing any violation of law. Our secular democracy is indeed is in grave danger at the hands of the police force more than the communalists themselves.
I had seen all this during Jabalpur riots in 1961 how brutally police had behaved with poor Muslims there and how PAV had looted Muslim houses. It was then that I had resolved to fight against communalism and devote my life for inter-religious harmony. And after 47 years same thing is happening in our country. Did I achieve anything?