Saturday, October 25, 2003

Being unfair to the police
Reeta Sharma

I am absolutely convinced with actress Nandita Dasí argument published in a newspaper in the wake of the rape of a Swiss diplomat. She says that somehow we have all been led to believe that the police are responsible for every crime that takes place and the media and the masses do not hesitate even for a moment to flog the men in uniform for its occurrence.

Nandita said that the police could not be behind every woman so as to prevent crime against them. The same logic applied to every other kind of crime, be it murder, kidnapping, robbery, etc. In fact, she gave another example. We expect, she said, every railway minister to resign for any rail accident that takes place anywhere in the country. But a crime or an accident does not take place because the police or the minister was not performing their duties.

There is no denying the fact that our institutions are full of corrupt practices. But there is a difference between corruption and the contributing factors which make a person indulge in crime. Holding the police alone responsible for a crime amounts to closing your eyes to the reality.

The rape of the Swiss woman in Delhi has been labelled a national shame. The media gave the impression that crime that took place in Delhi had a far greater intensity than the one which took place in some remote village. Why is the rape of a four-year-old girl not a national shame and only a mere crime? Delhi has a population of 1.40 crore and only 60,000 policemen to maintain law and order, and we expect them to deliver a perfectly secure environment to citizens!

In the past 50 years, we have flogged the police to such an extent that we are not willing to be objective and considerate towards them. If the police has been used by the politicians, a la British era, can we blame it for having learned to side with the mighty and powerful? Of course, the job of the police is to catch culprits, produce them in the courts and ensure that the victims get justice. But if this is not happening, in many cases there are many factors contributing to it. For one, the collective conscious of the society is on a rapid decline. It is a major cause for the increase in crime and decrease in accountability.

We often hear about the glorious role that the various police setups play in western countries. The incidence of crime in these nations is as high as in India. A case in point that illustrates the role of the media, society and the police is that of a rape that happened in London some time back. A girl travelling by the underground railway was taken hostage by a person on a crowded platform. He placed a revolver against the girlís arm and told her to quietly walk with him.

They crossed a couple of overhead cameras, climbed stairs, walked crowded roads and reached his house. He held the girl hostage and raped her for three days till she managed to escape from his custody. Despite the high-tech surveillance and the much-touted preventive capability of the police there, the brutal rape did take place. The English news channels and the print media were full of reports on this crime but not even once did they either use the expression "national shame" or held the Scotland Yard responsible for the crime. The only worry that was shared by every citizen was why such a crime had taken place in their society.

It is time we too start thinking why an English-speaking, educated person from a good family had raped the Swiss woman. Or why people murder at the drop of hat? Or why teachers no more think that it is their duty to inculcate moral and ethical values in their pupils? Or why parents are not moulding their children into good citizens? Why India, with all its pompous self-glorification of centuriesí old civilisation, is becoming such a degenerated society?