Corruption, bribes, incompetence, pot bellies – these are probably the words that come to mind when we think of the Indian police. What is perhaps amazing is how numb we have become to this picture of this flawed police force. Gross incompetency of the police as portrayed in mainstream movies like Dabangg is somehow all so normal in our heads. Salman Bhai says ‘If you kill me you will face 21 years of prison and if I do the same I will get a promotion along with bravery award’ and somehow in the heads of the Indian audience, such statements from a policeman are acceptable, normal and heroic even. Sonakshi Sinha has to enter a police station in the wee hours of the night and the scene depicts policemen inebriated in their banyans and chaddis, looking more like roadside goondas rather than protectors of law and order – again, all normal and okay in our heads. These are not images that one would associate with a police station in any of the developed countries. One can only imagine what would happen to that single girl if it were not a movie.
Although I have always thought on these lines, off-late I have been more affected as I could relate to a recent experience shared by one of my close friends who had a tryst with the Haryana Police. My friends met with an accident and they were two boys and two girls at 8pm returning after a nice dinner from Murthal. The police questioned the presence of ‘laundiya’ in the car, they refused to lodge an FIR and took them inside a dingy room with a bed where other male policemen were sleeping and asked all of them to sit on the bed as well. My friends were asked to write their statement on a blank piece of paper, the copy of which was not given to them. However, at that point they only wanted to escape from the station. Later when one of the boys went back to ask for a copy of the statement that they have written for an insurance claim he was told ‘Laundiyon ke sath aish kar raha tha na, jao Laundiyon se hi claim ke paise maang le’ and he was obviously threatened ‘Pyar ke bhasha samaj na aa rahi tujhe, Haryana police ki bhasha mein samjhaon ke?’ He obviously ran for his life and did not get the copy of the statement.
This incident raised a dichotomy in my head and I went on to think what the role of the Police is. The police is obviously the law enforcement body of the state and their duty is to use power, stick or anything but maintain law and order of the nation. Inquisitive I went on to Google what is being taught to police in the police administration classes.
Topics addressed during police administration courses include the following:
I also went on to read the break up within each course but nowhere are they taught to be the first point of help to citizens. The emotions of care, sensitivity which we want them to hold are actually emotions that they are asked to forgo as told to me by one of my colleagues. The police, in some cases go one step further and refuse to offer simple cooperation as well. Given these realities no one likes to talk about, we expect police to be the first point of contact when a woman faces violence. In all my interviews in rural areas on Intimate Partner Violence I asked them why they did not report their violence to police. There are organizations giving legal training to these women so that they know under which law they can be protected but the reality is that they face double humiliation by going to the police station. Just knowing the law does not mean that justice is guaranteed. We are recently talking a lot about mental health – one can only imagine the mental health of anyone who might have to visit a police station and if this is the scenario of Haryana which is around 60km from the capital we can all imagine what happens in the rural areas. With movies like Dabangg we are not even required to stress our imagination that far!