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A Cerebral Rendering An IPS officer analyses communal riots and the role of police in India

Updated: May 8, 2010 12:37 pm

Communalism is perhaps the biggest menace the plural Indian society is at present facing—the basic parameter being the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. The author, having served as a senior IPS officer, has analysed in detail the police neutrality, use of force by police during the communal violence, attitude of the masses, role of militant groups, communal bias in reporting facts, discrimination in preventive action, plans of action to check violence etc. The author has also given the historical perspective of communal riots and studied deeply the causes and preventive steps followed in major communal riots.

            The author opines that communalism has threatened the basic value system envisaged in Indian Constitution. Secularism is its basic value but during the last decade or so, our secular polity has constantly been under threat. Our plural society has seen the ugliest form of violence exploding in the form of communal riots. The police force, state or central, is the first organised institution to bear the brunt of communal violence. Since the persons manning the police come from the same society that breeds the germs of communal antagonism, they carry along with them the prejudices, suspicions, fears and hatred prevalent in their community for the other community. The writer states that the study of various communal riots and the role of police oraganisations.

            Discussing the historical perspective of communal riots, the writer states that in the Indian context, the interests of various groups identified as Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims are conflicting and divergent. In India, communal riots have mainly been the outcome of the desire of British to suppress the Indian nationalist upsurge by all means—fair or foul. It completely changed the balance of relationship between Hindus and Muslims. However simultaneously, the existence of a uniform system of policing and law enforcement in British India made the existence of the state more stable and its interventions more effective.

            In the next chapter, the author discusses the psycho-social dimensions of communal riots. In order to give legitimacy to any communal violence every community advances its own arguments. Their arguments take such deep roots in the thought process of individual members of each community that they begin to think of themselves as part of that cultural identity. These arguments help in building prejudices against other communities, considering themselves as peaceful. In the Indian context, Muslim League was successful in conveying the message to a vast number of Muslims that Hindus and Muslims constitute different nations. The psychology of violence has its own logic, which changes with the times.

            In the fourth chapter, the writer deals with the trend of Indian Police in handling communal riots. In the pluralistic Indian society, the role and concept of neutrally of the police during a communal shift is very important. In his view, the responses of the minority and majority communities in this regard are dramatically opposite to each other. The study showed that more Hindus have faith in the civil police than Muslims have. The communal expectations from the police are mainly the result of the interest of the large-scale communalism of Indian society by the British state as a means of protecting its interests.

            The author has analysed in detail the police authority, use of force by police during communal violence and attitude of the masses. In this context, he has narrated some findings as a result of his study. The main findings are that the police behave partially during the most riots, prospective discrimination has been noted in the use of force, preventive arrest, etc. He further states that an average policeman does not shed her prejudices and pre-determined beliefs. Finally, the author has suggested various recommendations and measures to be adopted to check the menace of communal riots in the country.

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By Prof KD Sharma

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