The manner in which the Punjab Police has handled two recent incidents has caused widespread resentment among the people of the state. In one case, it was police action that caused the resentment, while in the other it was the lack of it. When a 14-year-old schoolgirl died in a bus accident, near Channu village of Muktsar district, some policemen, during the protest that followed, reportedly dragged her body away from the spot where she was killed. This resulted in anger from the protesters, further inflaming the situation in which traffic had been disrupted and the bus in question torched. The police also allegedly fired in the air using assault rifles.
In the other case, a young man's arms and legs were chopped off after a clash at a farmhouse near Abohar. The farmhouse belongs to a liquor baron, and the victim, who died later in the hospital, was his former employee. Following public pressure, the police has registered an FIR against him and a few others. However, the lack of arrests in the case has led to allegations of police sheltering the culprits. Since both the liquor baron and the owner of the bus service are associated with the Shiromani Akali Dal, the matter has taken a political turn too, with the Congress disrupting the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha on this issue.
The credibility of the police force in Punjab has taken a beating following its inability to solve various instances of sacrilege that rocked the state in the recent past. After a change of guard at the top, there was an expectation of change in the approach. However, the manner in which these two incidents have been handled reflects a gross misunderstanding of the police’s role. A police force is not the political arm of the ruling party of the day. The Punjab Police leadership needs to make the men and officers conscious of the distinction between a political role and its professional duties. The police has only one mandate — to serve the public interest and ensure the citizens’ safety. The police is not the keeper of the politician’s interests.
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