December 9th, 2012
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Rule of Law and Police Morale in Gujarat State

Misusing and abusing the administrative authority of the Government over the Police, who are mandated to enforce law and order, the authorities had forced the police to act as enablers of rioting and abetters to rioters to carry out Government’s anti-Minority mobocratic agenda.
R.B.Sreekumar

sreekumarThe rule of law enforced by an efficient, skilful and well-motivated police is imperative for cohesion, peace and progress of modern democratic societies. The protracted communal riots in 2002, having ingredients of genocide as defined in the UN Covenant of 1948, leaving nearly two Thousand people killed, besides eliminating numerous symbols of Islamic culture of medieval times, brought infinite ignominy to the image of Gujarat State Police and the Executive Magistracy. This State facilitated communal holocaust was followed by meticulously manipulated subversion of the Criminal Justice System, resulting in delay and denial of justice delivery to the riot victim survivors.

Indictment by Media and many strictures on the inadequate integrity and deplorable professionalism of Gujarat Police by Higher Judiciary has a steady debilitative effect on the Police morale. Naroda Patia judgement (August 2012) by Dr.Jyotsna Yagnik had blamed Police for acting as ‘Nero’ when ninety six people were butchered in ten-hour long depredations by rioters.

Misusing and abusing the administrative authority of the Government over the Police, who are mandated to enforce law and order, the authorities had forced the police to act as enablers of rioting and abetters to rioters to carry out Government’s anti-Minority mobocratic agenda.

Significantly those who acted as per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in Criminal Procedure Code, Bombay Police Act, and Gujarat Police Manual could contain disturbances in sixteen Districts (out of twenty six Police Districts) and in two Commissionerates (Surat and Rajkot City). Most of these dedicated Officers had been victimised and ill-treated by Modi Government since 2002 and many have to get justice through judiciary or forced to go-on Central deputation posting.

The mobocratic anti-Minority blood bath by the activists of the ruling Party were actualised through the protective cover provided by a coterie of Officers, who functioned as an informal mafia, enjoying extra-legal status and supra-hierarchical accessibility, closeness to and confidence of top political leadership in the State Government.  The regulations on command and control system in the Gujarat Police Manual had remained inoperative over those in the mafia.

Nearly twenty alleged fake encounters from October 2002 to February 2007 were the handiwork of this mafia and such extrajudicial killings continued till top brass among the blue-eyed boys of the Government – DIG DG Vanzara, SP Rajkumar Pandian, A.Chudasama and so on- were arrested in the month of April 2007. Stoppage of encounter killings of any reported jihadist militant  after the arrest of ‘authors of encounters’ exposed the hollowness of Government version, after every encounter, that Gujarat Police had eliminated members of Lashkar_E_Toiba or Jaish_E_Mohammad, who had plotted to assassinate Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar leaders. An unanswered intriguing question is as to why internationally well organised terrorists had stopped sending their operatives to attack targets in Gujarat, since the imprisonment of encounter specialists. Are these Officers in Jail a greater deterrent on the militants than when they were on Duty?

The State Government policy of rewarding the collaborating Officers in the anti-Minority attacks, with accelerated promotions and post-retirement placements and punishing those genuine enforcers of the rule of law has put the morale of well-meaning Police Officers on a downward trend. Reluctance to act against law breakers presumably close to ruling classes- note the instances of spoiled brats from affluent sections indulging in rash drunken driving and killing people in hit and run cases, engaging in theft of computers, cars, etc for fun- burking of crimes like chain snatching and even murders regarding recovery of unidentified dead bodies with multiple pre-mortem injuries, were symptomatic. A statistical projection of fall in crime is achieved by extensive non-registration of F.I.Rs.  This writer often received Phone calls from victims of chain snatching for getting their complaints registered.

The claim of absence of major riots since 2002 in Gujarat (short lived minor riots did take place), should be assessed in the light of similar experience after every major riots in Gujarat and elsewhere, viz riots in 1969, 1984-1985, 1992-1993  in Gujarat. Similar pattern is visible regarding 1984 anti-sikh riots also.

In Gujarat, many riot victims are in a state of privation and neglect. The imperatives of any post-disaster mitigation – Relief, Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement – are used by the Government to cajole and pressurise the riot victims to withdraw their complaints against offenders of 2002 riots.  Consequently, nearly 90% of 2000 odd cases reinvestigated by Gujarat Police on the Apex Court Orders ended in acquittal as witnesses had turned hostile. Government support for resettlement of victims in the pre-riot socio-economic ambience is directly proportional to their willingness to compromise in their cases in favour of the rioters.

In this context, the voters should judge the Modi Government after answering the question, whether bribery, corruption and nepotism at the cutting edge level of service delivery – Police Station, Mamlatdar Office, etc, had increased or reduced during the Modi rule. Answer to this question should determine their preference of candidates on the polling day.

Long term solutions to ills in the Police Department lie in the implementation of Police reforms as directed by the Apex Court in Prakash Singh Case in 2006.

(The writer is Former DGP of  Gujarat)



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