EXTERNAL Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s bold and strong statement that India would no longer heed the commands of four or five countries (read the Five Eyes empire of the English-speaking West) and his challenge to the US and its allies to prove Indian agents’ involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar have gone down well with the domestic audience, which he seems to have essentially addressed. But not all, particularly some of those who live in the northern part of the country, are impressed. Sure, it is not the Government of India’s policy to commit extrajudicial murders in foreign shores. But does the government know what some of its rogue police officers do on a daily basis, robbing the country’s police force of all its credibility?
There is no Khalistan movement in Punjab, but to prove that emphatically to the world, the government needs to weed out the dirty ones among the cops.
For instance, one of the most disturbing stories talked about in Punjab today is the incident at a police station in Muktsar. A lawyer and a police inspector had a scrap over a minor accident. With his client in tow, the lawyer might have thrown his weight around, no doubt. But what ensued was ghastly. The client and the advocate were taken into custody and the former was forced to commit a sexual assault on the latter. Soon, a dope test on the lawyer turned out positive and he was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days. It took protests by lawyers of two states and a union territory to get the wheels of justice rolling. Now, a Superintendent of Police and two other cops have been arrested.
This incident is revelatory. It exposes the sense of impunity of the police in criminally exhibiting their raw power, the misuse of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act at the drop of a hat, the lack of supervision of the force by the political executive, and how the police hoodwink the judiciary into obtaining remand orders in undeserving cases. The high courts and the Supreme Court should look at the practice of automatic remand orders without a detailed hearing of the case. Local courts, justifiably, deny bail and agree to the police seeking judicial remand to avoid unnecessary controversy, but this norm is being regularly misused by the police across the country.
While the Muktsar drama was unfolding, a daring heist was being planned and executed in the tricity, outside the Mohali international airport. A police inspector looted gold worth over a crore from a smuggler. Can anything be worse than this? A police officer, by virtue of his or her job, comes into contact with criminals. In fact, one can safely assume that criminals are a cop’s best acquaintances, but here they have become best friends, or worse, a cop has become a bigger criminal. Again, only someone who audaciously feels free from any possibility of punishment would venture into a crime of this magnitude. The cop got wind of the smuggling racket and decided to go beyond taking a cut — grab the whole booty. And for all we know, the crime got exposed only because of the peeved regular cut-takers.
It is not difficult to understand why these cops do what they do. Their impunity comes from what they see all around them. Last week, an inspector of the Chandigarh Police was reinstated in service after his arrest and incarceration. He was allegedly part of the criminal gang that first peddled drugs to a hapless person sitting on an expensive piece of property in Chandigarh, then kidnapped him and handed him over to someone to be disposed of. The victim was lucky to have been alive and shunted from one institution for the homeless to another, from Gujarat to Rajasthan to Delhi. The alleged kingpin was a local journalist (corrupt journalists have always been accomplices of crooked politicians and cops).
Now, two years after the crime got busted, while the trial is at a crucial stage, with the prosecution recording the statement of the witness, the bent cop against whom charges have been framed by the trial court has been reinstated. Why would the fear of punishment be a deterrent to cops if they get reinstated into the very same force even after a court frames charges? If the case took a normal or a less-than-normal pace, the cop would have retired by the time it reached its logical conclusion. And if all this while he is still in uniform, he could obviously count on his force’s patronage-dispensing system.
In this context, it would not be amiss to record a narrow escape this writer had from the clutches of a notorious cop at the empty VIP lounge of the Srinagar international airport four years ago. The DSP in charge of airport security, intriguingly introduced by one’s own colleague, insisted that I should carry his bag to Chandigarh. Whether it was due to all the Hollywood movies with plots of contraband getting planted on innocent passengers unspooling at the back of the mind or just plain luck, I refused to touch the bag. A year later, this very DSP was caught ferrying terrorists in the valley and suddenly one remembered that there were accusations of a similar kind against him in the Parliament attack case as well.
It is for this reason that many in Punjab refuse to believe that the government does not do hit jobs; for, they know that even if the government does not, some cops do. And their uniform, unfortunately, symbolises the government for the common man. Whether it was the Amritpal phenomenon or some terrorist’s killing, a common Punjabi has seen enough by now to know that it only serves the interests of crooked cops to keep the Khalistan pot boiling. How else will some of them gift Porsche cars and luxury flats to their good-for-nothing sons? There is no Khalistan movement in Punjab, but to prove that emphatically to the world, the government needs to weed out the dirty ones among the cops.
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