By Manoj Joshi
Though not part of his job description, NSA Ajit Doval pitched in and was able to provide the leadership to restore some calm in areas of Delhi shaken by communal violence that has killed some 42 people so far. As an old police hand, he must have had much to say to the Delhi Police (DP) that had merely stood by as parts of the capital saw arson and mayhem. But all he said publicly was there was need to correct the impression of “their capabilities and intentions” in the minds of the people.
A high court judge was more blunt when on Wednesday he made DP officers watch four videos of BJP leaders making provocative hate speeches. The net result, however, was that the judge was transferred out and the new bench gave the police a month to act on the issue. It is actions like these that promote the sense of impunity with which the DP has been acting, in the face of blatant criminal actions and violations of the law.
It’s been nearly two months since masked people armed with sticks, rods and acid attacked students in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus. Almost everyone knows who the attackers are, as does the DP, but so far not a single person has been arrested.
And then there is the Jamia Millia Islamia attack where students, some in a library, were set upon and assaulted by the police – an act, like many others, captured in stark videos. It’s not just about politics. Earlier this month, the police stood by when a mob entered Gargi College and sexually harassed and assaulted the women students. In another incident Jamia women complained that they were kicked in their private parts by police personnel.
But the rot in the Delhi Police is not new. In 1984 this writer saw its “qualities” first-hand. Sikhs had been massacred in the city without the police lifting a finger. Near a police station in Trilokpuri an army captain pointed to a police inspector standing by sheepishly and said, “This man had himself locked inside the police station so that we could not find anyone to guide us in this congested area.”
The police abdicated its duties in 1984, they did the same in 2020. DP is not unique in its ways. Across the country police forces have a horrible reputation. DP’s cousins in Uttar Pradesh would give them a run for their money when it comes to both impunity and brutality. The way they handled the recent anti-CAA agitation is testimony to this. The police behave the way they do because they serve the cynical purposes of governing politicians, whether it is in harassing the opposition, or being lenient with their own supporters. They sometimes execute people without a trial, or entangle people in civil or criminal cases without compunction.
Political interference is the first and most important part of the problem. The second are the terms and conditions of service, though here, the DP is relatively better off than their counterparts in other states. The third problem is that the Indian police force is simply too small to deal with the challenges they confront. 25% of the DP is involved in VIP duties. Not surprisingly, they are grossly over-worked and underpaid. The fourth is training. Their idea of crowd control is either do nothing, or simply bash up every one in sight. On occasion, when protesters throw stones, throw them back at them. Urban areas are riot prone and require a specially trained and equipped force to deal with them. But all these will be to no avail if the police lack the fifth and most important ingredient – a moral compass. All of us need one, but surely for those who are said to be guardians of the law it should be mandatory.
This article originally appeared in The Times of India