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Police should live up to professional ethics, ideals

The most undefendable images of policing, notwithstanding their stigmatised corruption and colonial authority, are the ones that stoke communal flames in society, first through inaction to safeguard the victims and then by implicating the critics of the inaction. It was most shocking to come across this during the 2020 Delhi riots. But the events in Tripura are reminiscent of the colonial days when policing had only one purpose — to serve the cause of the Raj.

Police should live up to professional ethics, ideals

Abject apathy: The failure of the police to control the tense situation in Tripura, which broke out in retaliation to acts of vandalism in Bangladesh, caused dismay. PTI



Vikash Narain Rai

Former Director, National Police Academy, Hyderabad

The Indian police were never placed in such acute conflict with the nation’s Constitution. Their legacy, tradition and profile, all important markers of day-to-day policing, stand seriously compromised. Thrust into their working mixture of colonial legacy and corrupt traditions of the native rule is communal profiling, blurring the democratic horizon of administrative boundaries. Of late, the higher judiciary has started expressing its anguish and frustration over such a state of affairs in no uncertain terms, but a far more active role is definitely waiting to be played by them.

An altogether unfamiliar criminal jurisprudence is unfolding in some of the BJP-ruled states. Going by the trend, it seemed to have invaded substantially the constitutional citadel belonging to the citizens. Reporters, commentators and fact-finders are being slapped with notices and charges under the non-bailable UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act); the stringent provisions of the National Security Act (NSA), a law meant to curb anti-national activities, is apparently reserved for subjugating Muslim voices. Democratic protests of politically dissenting classes and communities are threatened with arbitrary imposition of laws authorising disproportionately huge pecuniary damages. The fake encounter culture is routinely boasted of by the political executive as a lawful tool to control crimes and criminals. The operations of international drug cartels with national security ramifications are underplayed, but the ‘glamour’ of drug abuse is exploited through media leaks and selective incarcerations to settle political scores. What’s worse, the offending agents of the law are being defended by the State, while the court directions granting relief to the needy are being hotly contested or ignored.

The Aryan Khan case, a journey of shifting perceptions for the investigating agency, floating from ‘control’ to ‘coercion’, cannot be termed just a misstep by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). But what would the hawks say to the unleashing of the communal carnage in Tripura on October 26 that continued in full administrative view, purportedly in retaliation to communal incidents in Bangladesh? It is said that a society which chooses to wage war against its police had better learn to make peace with its criminals. True, one might echo it, and how did society reach this point, a scenario where the police swearing allegiance to the law of the land are pitted against the Constitution? Bangladesh crushed its vandal gangs fast, but Tripura is looking for scapegoats to shield its own.

The most undefendable images of policing, notwithstanding their stigmatised corruption and colonial authority, are the ones that stoke communal flames in society, first through inaction to safeguard the victims and then by implicating the critics of the inaction. It was most shocking to come across in the National Capital a convoluted contrast of this magnitude during the February 2020 Delhi riots. But the numerous forthright legal interventions since then in favour of free speech and rule of law by eminent jurists and judges have received a most severe beating in Tripura, reminiscent of the colonial days when the policing had only one purpose — to serve the cause of the Raj.

The Tripura police came out with a letter (dated November 3), addressed to Twitter Inc. It was for blocking Twitter pages/accounts and providing information about the admin/user of the pages/accounts, in the case registered under various sections of the IPC and Section 13 of the UAPA in a West Agartala police station. It read, “It is to inform you that some persons/organisations are publishing/posting distorted and objectionable news items/statements in Twitter regarding the recent clash and alleged attack upon mosques of Muslim communities in the state. In publishing these news items/posts, the persons/organisations have been found using photographs/videos of some other incidents, fabricated statements/commentary for promoting enmity between religious groups/communities in presence of a criminal conspiracy. The posts have the potential to flare up communal tension in Tripura between people of different religious communities, which may result in communal riots.”

They provided a list of 68 URL addresses in the letter and asked for details thereof for pursuing the case. How vague could it be? After more than a dozen mosques vandalised and arson and looting of Muslim properties for days, with more than 100 persons booked under UAPA, these are still ‘alleged’ attacks for the Tripura police? As per the letter itself, the violence was presumptuous and not an outcome of the tweets. The person named at serial number 60 on the list is Shyam Meera Singh, who works for a news portal. He had tweeted just three words, “Tripura is burning”.

In today’s world, the words of Sardar Patel stand way taller than his tallest statue erected in Gujarat. PV Rajgopal, a well-respected police researcher and former Director of the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, recalled recently the memorable words of Patel uttered at the passing-out parade of the Punjab Police Training School, Phillaur, on March 3, 1949: “Do nothing that will bring dishonour to the uniform that you wear. Do nothing that may bring discredit to the flag that you salute, and it is upon your loyalty, upon your devotion to duty, upon your sincerity and upon your honesty that the reputation of the administration will depend.

“You are, therefore, writing the first chapter of the history of India. So, you should write it in a manner that the future generation may remember you with respect and affection. May God, give you power and all that is required to build our country, our province in a manner which may bring honour and credit to you all.”

The Tripura police have, to use the words of Sardar Patel, discredited the flag that they salute and betrayed the reputation of the administration. Will they be remembered for contributing to the last chapter in the history of constitutional policing? Or, will they be checked? 


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