Asghar Ali Engineer  

(Secular Perspective June 1-15, 2007)


The police as such is unfriendly, even antagonistic to people and much more so when it comes to  minorities. The police act was drafted by Britishers in 1961 and its main purpose at the time was to  suppress people and to enforce British rule. Thus the police act was meant to suppress people and  make them obedient to the British rulers. It was understandable that any foreign rulers would do that.


However, what is most surprising is that even sixty years after independence from British rule our  democratic rulers have not made any change in the police act. Not only that our rulers are not even  prepared to implement recommendations of 5th police commission for some reforms and that too  despite the Supreme Court directive to do so. The reason is obvious. Our rulers also want to use  police for their political end. They do not want police to be people friendly. If police becomes people  friendly politicians cannot use them for their personal end.


If police is anti-people in general, it is much more so anti-minorities, particularly anti-Muslim and anti- Christian. In riot after riot police behaves partially and does not hesitate to kill Muslims in firing. Latest  example is of Hyderabad Mecca Masjid bomb explosion. The police fired ruthlessly on the protesting  mob and killed six persons. It fired even on injured persons who were being taken to hospitals after  bomb explosion. And what is worse they fired to kill and that is why six lives were lost.


Here I am reminded of terrible tragedy of Hashimpura of May 23, 1987. Hashimpura is near Meerut,  which was rocked by communal violence in May 1987. The police as usual thought that Muslims are  mainly responsible for communal disturbances in Meerut and decided to teach Muslims a lesson. The  PAC (Police Armed Constabulary) went to Hashimpura and pulled out some 50 persons mostly young  and some elderly. Most of them were poor.


They were loaded on trucks, taken outside city premises and shot dead and then their bodies were  thrown into a nearby canal. Some two or three persons somehow survived, (the police had taken them  to be dead), hid themselves in shrubs and escaped and told the whole story. It is twenty years since  this terrible tragedy happened but no action has been taken against the murderers. They are roaming  free. Some activists worked hard to bring these policemen to justice but nothing happened. The state  machinery was totally indifferent to this and not even summons were served to them.


Mulayam Singh Yadav who always claimed that he is sympathetic to Muslims and had an eye on their  votes, did not do anything at all. Even today the matter is pending and relatives of those killed are  running from pillar to post for justice and the culprits roam freely. The reason is obvious: those killed  were poor and also Muslims. Thus they were doubly disadvantaged. Recently on 23rd May on  completion of twenty years of the massacre in Hashimpura, mothers, sisters and fathers of those killed  demonstrated in Delhi holding photographs of their loved ones. One does not know whether the  authorities took any notice of this grim tragedy or not.


The Gujarat police are of course notorious in this matter and they seem to get away with anything  under the patronage of Narendra Modi. Sohrabuddin and his wife and another witness of the crime of  fake encounter Koli were eliminated. All papers were faked under instructions of Chief Minister’s Office  of which Tehelka in its issue of 19th May, 2007 has given gory details. DIG police Vanjara called these  fake encounters as ‘Desh Bhakti’. Apart from Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi, another Muslim  youth Samir Khan was also eliminated in 2003. Ishrat Jahan and her colleague were also eliminated  describing them as members of Lashkar-i-Tayyiba.


All these fake encounters were carried out saying they wanted to kill Narendra Modi. Thus Narendra  Modi was trying to project himself as a martyr and a brave fighter against terrorism. He himself said in  one of his speeches that he will lay down his life for the sake of the country and for fighting against  terrorism. He said, challenging “the powers in Delhi” to “hang him till death” but has reiterated that he  would continue his efforts and wipe out terrorism from Gujarat. “I challenge the UPA (government) to  hang me till I die. If they plan to do this tomorrow, I request them to do it today, I will give up life. But I  will not give up my fight against terrorism.”


This is how Modi is trying to extricate from the fake encounter imbroglio. He wants to wipe out  terrorism by getting innocent people killed. He wants to project himself as martyr by killing people from  minority communities. All this is happening in a secular democracy. Of course Gujarat is a Hindutva  laboratory and already has declared itself as part of Hindu Rashtra. Modi is showing all his efficiency  in bringing about reality of Hindu Rashtra in Gujarat.  


This clearly shows how politicians misuse police for their own personal ends. It is thanks to the  Supreme Court that Vanjara and other police officers are being brought to justice. Sohrabuddin’s  brother filed a petition in the Supreme Court and on being issued notice to the Gujarat government, it  admitted that Sohrabuddin and his wife were killed in fake encounters. However, Modi Government  washed its hands off the whole affair and put entire blame on DIG CID Vanjara and others.


It is also true that there are some honest police officers who try to do their duty. Ms. Gita Johari, IG  CID stubbornly refused to bow down to political pressures. Supreme Court had issued instructions to  make her answerable to the Court only. But political establishment put pressure on her to report to her  immediate boss Shri Mathur but she refused. However, such officers are very few. Most others are  politically pliable.


There should be zero tolerance for encounter deaths and any police officer who has killed anyone in  so called encounter should be treated as murderer unless he proves in the court of law that he fired in  defense and that there was casualty on the part of police also. All details about how many rounds  were fired and bullets fired should also be accounted for. Recently the Government of Maharashtra  has issued instructions that there would be a CID enquiry after every encounter death. It is a welcome  step. But one has to see whether this is strictly implemented. Many such instructions are issued but  never followed in practice.


No other country ever tolerates such killings by the police. Encounter deaths were unheard of even in  India few decades before. First encounter deaths were reported during emergency (1975-77) when  some Naxalites were killed by Andhra and Kerala police. Mr. Tarkunde, (retired judge of the Bombay  High court) the noted rationalist and human rights activist held inquiry in encounter killing and exposed  those police officers who killed people. There was much debate in the country at a time and such  encounters had almost stopped.


But soon these encounters began and many mafia dons were killed. But such killings were also not so  genuine. Some policemen who became ‘encounter specialists’ were killing at the instance of rival  mafia dons and making money. These encounter specialists accumulated wealth much beyond their  known sources of income. Despite all this they acquired political influence and had direct access to  political bosses over their immediate bosses.


Thus encounter deaths should not be tolerated in a democratic set up. In democracy human rights  play very important role and police should be sensitized to human rights issues. However, our police is  still being used for suppression of people’s rights and specially those of minorities. In most of the  communal riots police hardly brings those responsible for killings of minorities to book. They do not  investigate cases properly and even forge records.


One has to go through various inquiry commission reports to realize this. The Madan Commission  Inquiry Report into Bhivandi and Jalgaon riots of 1970 lambasted the police officers for forging records  in order to implicate some members of minority communities. However, state took no action against  such officers. Instead many of them were promoted. Similarly the Srikrishna Commission Report  which inquired into Mumbai riots of 1992-93 passed strong remarks against communalization of  Mumbai police and named more than 30 officers for their crimes of omissions and commissions but  the congress Government of Maharashtra took no action against these guilty officers and even where  it did it was mere symbolic. And one such officer was promoted to the highest coveted post of Mumbai  commissioner of Police, a person who was named for killing nine Muslims in Modern Bakery near  Zakaria Masjid. Of course he was promoted by the Shiv Sena-BJP Government which came to power  in 1995.


Thus the police force is both criminalised and communalised and is trigger happy when it comes to  poor and weaker sections in general and those belonging to minorities. This is indeed a matter of  shame and the state should make all possible efforts to secularise the police and sensitise it to  democratic values. The police should not be used as a repressive force as during colonial times but as  people friendly institution in a democratic and secular country.


There is urgent need to implement police reform and change the outdated colonial police act. Earlier it  is done better it is to uphold democratic secular values of our Constitution.



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