Monday, March 8, 2021
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Raising Cain

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Monalisa Changkija

 By now everyone knows that one GRP personnel assaulted our Reporter, Prasanjit Dutta on May 8, 2020, I assume; as also the apology the personal had tendered the same day. After this reprehensible incident, yesterday (May 8) every minute unfolded drama after drama ~ which were actually a tragedy that our Police Force has been reduced to, so aptly encapsulated in yesterday’s events. What happened to our Reporter was bad enough but what followed was worse exposing our Police Department as one which has totally lost the plot. In brief, suffice it to say that the Police made errors after errors in handling an already bad situation ~ some details of which have made public.

Some instances, despite informing the Police that we are coming to the Police Station to file an FIR, police personnel going to the victim’s house and picking him up instead of requesting him to come so as to record his statement is tantamount to “kidnapping. Two, keeping him alone in a room in the Police Station for interrogation surrounded by police personnel is “illegal confinement”. Three, threatening to file a Counter FIR and take the victim into police custody if the victim files an FIR is “intimidation”. Yet, we didn’t file charges against these lapses of the Police because there are certain levels I simply refuse to stoop down to. What the police didn’t realize is that by the very fact of assaulting our Reporter and the instances cited above, they have shown ignorance of the law they need to operate under and even if they know, they have shown total disregard and disrespect for the law of the land. What the police also didn’t realize and bargain for is the spirit of the Fourth Estate in a democracy, which we strive to uphold even in this little corner of the country.

Therefore, although the errant police personnel has tendered a letter of apology, which we have accepted ~ and although we know that very stern disciplinary action has been taken against him hence one aspect of the unsavoury incident is over, the entire issue is not quite not done. So, once again I have no choice but to use words. Besides what happened to our Reporter and some of the instances of the lapses of the police, we haven’t informed you of the details of what happened in the Police Station yesterday. Our Executive Editor and Manager had gone to our Reporter’s house to accompany him to the Police Station to file an FIR. But before they reached his house, he was already taken away by the Police. So our Executive Editor and Manager rushed to the Police Station and were with our Reporter for hours ~ till after dark actually. I will not go into the murky details but just say that they did not have the best of experience in the Police Station. I don’t need to go into details because a lot of people would have undergone the very same experience in Police Stations across Nagaland.

Now, why is this happening? Besides doctors and journalists, there are hundreds of victims of police assault and battery, especially after the imposition of the lockdown necessitated by the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, none can file FIRs now or are intimidated from doing so. Yes, there are a lot of lockdown violations but why do our police feel that the only solution to stop these violations is assault and battery? There is certainly a very serious underlying disease that is weakening our Police Force ~ and the wanton assaults and battery are the symptom of this disease. So are the utter disregard for laws and the rule of law. The genesis of this disease are several ~ and they are political, administrative, economic, social and cultural. It is also true that our Police Force is demoralized but it has done this to itself. You see, the problems and issues related to the Police Force and policing have never been properly studied and analyzed ~ much less remedied. It is a pity that so far there has been no research on the multi-faceted dimensions of the Police Force and policing done either from within this Force and/or by our Social Sciences researchers and experts. Till such time some study is done and remedies offered and actually implemented, assault and battery will be our Police Force’s main activity.

So, you will understand when I say that while one GRP personnel assaulted our Reporter, he wasn’t the only one. Till now I haven’t heard a word of formal, written and public apology from his political and administrative higher-ups, who are equally responsible for his conduct. How our cops in the field behave and conduct themselves is the responsibility of both the administrative and political higher-ups. Unfortunately, our political leadership never takes responsibility for anything. So, when around a hundred backdoor appointees are recruited into the Force and the public says nothing doing, our political leadership throws the responsibility on senior officers. Now, if a Minister doesn’t know what’s happening in his Department and senior officials or whoever does whatever at will, is that Minister fit to run the Department? Can there be political and backdoor appointments without the “active participation” of the political leadership? It is very easy to find scapegoats but very difficult to find real men, who shoulder their responsibilities and man up to their shortcoming, faults and failures. This is one problem also rife in our Police Department.

Now, how exactly are our cops trained and what exactly are they taught? This is definitely a very huge subject but I need to ask one very unpalatable question here. Are our cops trained to abide by the Constitution and serve the people accordingly or serve their political masters? Are our cops taught and trained to prioritize their Department over the human, legal and constitutional rights of the people and over the rule of law? Training makes a cop and most of the cops we see are not the prettiest sight. For decades much have been said about the politicization and criminalization of the Police Force in India but is that possible without the compliance and connivance of sections within the Police themselves, which by and by becomes a culture of the Force? So, obviously the calibre of the personnel recruited is crucial. With the culture of political and backdoor appointments the order of the day now, the calibre of the recruited personnel is compromised resulting in a totally lost Police Force ~ and unfortunately totally unawareness that it is lost.

Let’s now focus a little on the moral and spiritual support-system our Police personnel are entitled to. What are the priests, pastors, pujaris, imams, etc., preaching and teaching them? Are they saying: “Seek ye first the kingdom of taxi and truck drivers’ pockets…”? “Beat and bully the meek so that you get to do all the inheriting…”? What exactly consist of the core moral, ethical and spiritual guidance and mentoring our cops receive? Policing is a high-stress job, most of our cops out in the field are not the best educated, our cops’ living and working conditions are probably one of the worst in the country and the support-system from higher-ups is not the most enviable ~ these are some of the factors that are enough to drive any sane person up the wall. So, this makes ethical and spiritual guidance and mentoring even more necessary. This makes it even more pertinent for both the political and administrative higher-ups to pay closer attention to the physical, mental and psychological needs of our cops. So far I have not heard a squeak out of the mouths of any political higher-ups of the Home Department on these issues in the last 35 years I have been writing.

 Most unfortunate that the human, legal and constitutional rights of our cops are also violated by our political leadership ~ in turn, our cops have forgotten the existence of human, legal and constitutional rights and so they raise Cain in our towns and villages, amongst helpless and hapless people. At the end of the day, when we study the behavior and conduct of Police personnel, we cannot escape from the fact of unsatisfactory and unacceptable political leadership ~ and we should not. Still, all these do not absolve the undisciplined and unconstitutional behavior and conduct of anyone in uniform ~ and we should not.

 The anomalies and aberrations of our society are also reflected in our Police Force. Examples are many but here let me cite one: imagine my surprise when last evening a Police Officer visited me and requested that the aforesaid errant police personnel should not be punished twice for the same crime. I couldn’t understand. He explained that the Department will take action against him but that no other “party” should take action against hm. I was stunned. Then I realized what he was saying. So, I assured him that no clan, tribe, village, etc., will touch the errant cop. I assured him that I don’t operate on the lines of clan, tribe, village, etc. These factors don’t even come into the picture. Well, they shouldn’t but obviously they do otherwise the Police Officer wouldn’t have been so worried. Now, you see that is the problem in and with our society. Why should any family, clan, tribe or village interfere in matters of the law of the land? Why does our Government allow this? Why do our families, clans, tribes and villages think they can over-ride the law of the land? I am strongly of the opinion that the Government must punish errant employees and equally protect and defend its innocent employees, who have been wrongly accused. The Government must not abdicate its responsibilities and out-source justice delivery to families, clans, tribes and villages.

And sure enough, after the Police Officer went away, the errant personnel’s family contacted me. He wanted to meet me to apologize. I refused flatly. I actually told my caller: “I will not meet him or his family members, or anyone. Even if Y Patton comes, I will not meet him”. I say Y Patton because he is our present Home Minister and the Police Department is directly under him. As far as I am concerned, senior officials are handling the case and I trust they will do the needful ~ and they have. So there is no reason for him or anybody to meet me. Our society needs to understand that there is a place, a time and an occasion for everything, which we must abide us and not make a mess by confusing issues. If we respect and abide by constitutional laws and customary laws in their proper places we will create lesser problems for ourselves and for society and state. Also, why do I need to go running to my brothers and uncles for issues that don’t concern them? Why do I need to go running to my brothers, uncles, clans, tribe, whatever, when I am in trouble? Am I not woman enough to take responsibility for my actions? Am I not woman enough to handle my own problems and issues? Am I not woman enough to stand my ground come hell or high water? Am I not woman enough to face the music and come out wiser when I have erred?

Right now our Police Department is facing a lot of flak ~ deservedly. How it comes out of this will speak for the calibre of the political and administrative leadership and the men and women of the Force. The course correction it needs to urgently take now will determine the future of the Force. The Force’s action now will determine whether Nagaland will slip into the category of police raj/police state or rise up to the category of some of the best Police Forces in the world. Are our men and women in the Force up to it? More importantly, is our political leadership up to it?

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