Endless Problems, No Solutions
A communal riot in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar city on September 7, 2013, led to the killing of a TV reporter and 50 others, as per the latest count. The genesis of the riot was in August 2013 when a boy was killed by two brothers from a different community in Kawal village, for molesting their sister. This led to a backlash which claimed the lives of the brothers and others.
The irony, of the whole thing, is that the latest bloodshed came a day after the Centre issued an alert to seven states, including UP, over communal polarisation and hostility ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. UP has seen a spike in communal violence since the Samajwadi Party came to power in March 2012, with at least 95 people killed in 50 recorded clashes, as per the State, but 110, as per the Intelligence Bureau report.
If a disease is not treated in time, it is bound to aggravate. The same is true of controlling any riots. In the matter of dealing with riots, quite often those at the spot are not given a free hand, as there is a remote control telling them from behind as to how to handle any communal situation.
The standard response, after the riots are over, is to set up an inquiry committee or commission, which is generally headed by a person, who goes by the affidavits filed before it. Sometimes, it takes decades for any inquiry to be completed, just as inquiry into Ayodhya demolition took fifteen years. There is no time limit for any judicial inquiry, as umbrage is taken by the inquiry officer, if he or she is told to complete the same within a given time frame. The result of all these so-called inquiries, despite the visits of the VIP’s from Delhi, is zero.
In fact, human nature is so fragile that you cannot predict as to what will be the tinder fuse. The government feels that a universal remedy to anything affecting law and order is the police, who is told not to use force or open fire.
It has been rightly said, “The citizen expects police officers to have the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of David, the strength of Samson, the patience of Job, the leadership of Moses, the kindness of the Good Samaritan, the faith of Daniel, the tolerance of the Carpenter of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), and, finally, an intimate knowledge of every branch of the natural, biological, and social sciences. If he had all of these, he might be a good policeman.”
In fact, it is for the rulers to decide as to what is in the best interest of the country. Communal riots in the country are not an infrequent occurrence. Yet after 66 years of Independence, the government appears to be clueless as to how to handle the same. Serious diseases require surgical operations, the need for which is forgotten in the quest of vote-bank politics.
The first line of defence, for dealing with any riot, is the police. Neither Uttar Pradesh, not other states have, at any time, examined whether they have adequate police force or training facilities for them to deal with the complex problem of rising crimes, including the communal riots in the country.
Uttar Pradesh has one of the lowest police to population ratio of 74 policemen per 1,00,000 population, against the United Nations norms of 240 policemen per one lakh population. Mind you, this is with reference to the total sanctioned strength. With security often seen as a status symbol, the Uttar Pradesh government is spending a whopping Rs.120 crore of public money a year on providing security cover to around 1,500 VIPs of different hues, as per the officials records.
Besides, the police is informally told not to open fire on the people indulging in riots, for the fear of loss of vote banks for the party in power. The former Home Minister Chidambram also admitted that “inadequate and ill-equipped police forces” is the reason for the present sorry state of affairs of policing in the country. And policing a country with insufficient police stations and inadequate and ill-equipped police forces makes the task almost formidable. “We need to at least double the police strength and create necessary infrastructure to impart them quality training to improve the policing in the country. The police-population ratio for the whole country is about 130 per 1,00,000 persons, which is much lower than the international norms.”
At a time when the communal riots and other crimes like murder and atrocities against the Schedules Castes (ST) are abnormally high in UP, the state’s police force has only 1,49,168 personnel out of the 3,68,260 sanctioned posts as on January 1, 2011. It means an overwhelming vacancies of 60 per cent are in its police. On the same date, the country had 25 per cent vacancy in its all police forces—5,01,069 vacant posts against the total police sanctioned strength of 20,64,370 posts. 22,87,799 cases, including 4401 of murder, were registered in UP in 2011, the highest number of registered crime cases in any state in India.
I hasten to add that I do not plead that police should use force indiscriminately. How will anybody give or get evidence that a particular policeman did not take action? Because a riot has taken place, why not make the local elected representative equally responsible, as they are the ones, who come from the public and have obviously failed to test the pulse of the people?
Forget about adequate police force, the police do not get even the budget required for petrol for government vehicles. A UP senior police officer told me, that when an honest SHO raised the question of not having the money to get his jeep repaired, tyres replaced, and for buying petrol, he was pulled up by his seniors that it was amazing that he could not manage such small matters. Even when I, as District Police Chief, took up the matter of raising the stationary grant from Rs. 2 per month, as well as the prisoners diet allowance of 75 paisas daily, I was curtly told that I had to manage with whatever money was made available.
The stationary including the letterheads used to be supplied by the chief office, i.e. the head of the police. Despite my sending letters that we needed the stationary badly, there was no reply. I sent, literally a stinker, that the letter I was sending was the last paper left in the office and no correspondence should be expected from us till we get the stationary. I got the stationary, but with a lot of swearing in and stinkers by my seniors on my conduct.
The things have not changed. There is a Punjabi and Hindi saying that you get sweetness in proportion to the sugar you add. You get the police you deserve. The communal problem in India is getting worse, with the government, both at the central and state levels, only indulging in verbal diarrhoea of taking action, starting and ending at that day. Transfer or suspension of IPS or IAS officials is no solution and it is only garbling the issue, and misleading the public. The unity of the country comes first and it must not be allowed to be sacrificed at the cost of vote-bank politics or appeasement for the same. The government should know that its actions speak louder than its words.
By Joginder Singh
(The author is former Director, CBI.)
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