Stop them from going berserk
POLICE REFORMS NEEDED
The recent killings have cast a question on the very discipline of Police as institution. To avoid this in future, there is a desperate need to rein them in, urges Aijaz A Wani.
The institution of police in Jammu and Kashmir has been under severe public criticism for quite sometime now - sometimes a bit exaggerated but often quite genuinely. However, the two recent incidents i.e the shooting of Greater Kashmir photojournalist, Amaan Farooq on January 6, 2010, by the police officer and the killing of a 13 year old school boy, Wamiq on January 31, 2010, by teargas shell fired by the cop are indicative of the fact that this institution is in urgent need of reform if the government and the police want to create an atmosphere of trust among the public for this very vital institution. This acquires more importance if we bear in mind that in the recent times there has been a great demand for demilitarization and signals are coming from Delhi that police should prepare itself to take the responsibility of internal security. It is very important that the police should try to gain confidence of the public by putting a more human and pro-people face to ensure that they could succeed in doing their job and at the same time give a sense of relief to the people. It would certainly not be easy for the police to step in the shoes of paramilitary forces, however, the resentment among the public created by such brutal acts makes the job doubly difficult for them. It is very important to keep in mind that the withdrawal of paramilitary forces is justified on the basis that there is a marked improvement in the situation and secondly, that there is a deep-seated resentment among public for the continuous presence of large contingents of paramilitary forces in civilian areas. So it is in the backdrop of the above two factors that the government and the officials of police need to examine the whole issue and chalk out a viable strategy to be followed once they take over the full control of maintaining internal peace and order. The preliminary exercise in understanding the role of police and distinguishing between the institution of police and military is of crucial importance.
The role of police and paramilitary forces needs to be demarcated clearly. The two can not be and should not be mixed with each other. De-linking the military and Police is of critical importance in cases like Kashmir which has witnessed a long phase of conflict because the police and military institutions ,often, become closely associated during the conflict. And as the Oxfam Regional GB’s Policy coordinator (conflict), Mani Rama points out that “as the state turns increasingly to the military to shore up the police’s capacity to maintain internal order in the face of civil unrest and conflict, the distinction between internal order and external security becomes blurred. Sometime, the military comes to dominate the police formally or informally and the police becomes de-civilianized and militarized as it falls under military control”(Mani Rama, “Contextualizing Police Reform: security, the rule of law and post-conflict peace building”, International Peacekeeping, p.11).
To a large extent the two institutions have gone through the same process in Jammu and Kashmir and it is but obvious that the police force to some extent must have imbibed the characteristics of the paramilitary forces. Or we can say that there has been militarization of police force to some extent. However, the need of the hour is to sensitize the police force about the importance of being more pro-people and humanized and to perform their duties with high degree of responsibility and restraint.
The need for clearly delineating the distinction between the roles and doctrines of the police and military and making a radical separation between the two institutions in the transition to peace was recognized by peacemakers as early as 1990-92 in the context of El Salvador’s lengthy peace negotiations. The El Salvadoran Peace Agreement specified, “The doctrine of the armed is based on a distinction between the concept of security and defence. National defence, the responsibility of the armed forces, is intended to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity against outside military threat. Security, even when it includes this notion, is a broader concept based on unrestricted respect for the individual and social rights of the person. ......The maintenance of internal peace, tranquillity, order and public security lies outside the normal functions of the armed forces....[who] play a role in this sphere only in very exceptional circumstances, where the normal means have been exhausted”(El Salvador Agreements: The Path to Peace, 16th Jan 1992, pp.47-48). To be more specific police is concerned with maintaining the ‘internal peace’ while as the ‘external defence’ or ‘external security’ is the domain of the military. As Mani Rama puts it, the institution of police is entrusted with the weighty responsibility of preserving order and maintaining the law, and is perhaps the most public and visible arm of the state in society.
The way in which police discharge their duty will determine, in good measure, the stability of peace, as it will have an impact on the confidence of the public both in terms of the quality of peace and the commitment of the government to respect it. In Ireland, the police are called the Garda Siochana which means the “guardians of peace” and in Spain it is termed as Guardia Civil which roughly means the “guardians of civility”. These terms are indicative of the role the police are expected to perform in a civil society. The incidents like the recent ones are not only going to harm the image of the police, which is already under public scanner, but can prove very dangerous for any prospect of peace.
Of course working in the long phase of violent conflict can have a [negative] impact on the psyche of police also. Therefore, the need in such cases is to ‘de-militarize’ and ‘re-civilianize’ the police. Sensitizing them about the need to respect human rights is of critical importance particularly when there are visible signs of change on the ground. Human rights courses need to be included as an integral part of the police training curriculum. The nature of expectations of the public and the challenge before the police was aptly summarized by the editorial of a local daily, Rising Kashmir (Replacing troops: Police should work on accountability to make the transition people-friendly, 03-02-10), “Stepping into the shoes of paramilitary forces won’t be easy for sure. However, if police analyzes the role of military operations over the last 20 years and their adverse impact on the public psyche, and chalk out a model ensuring human rights; it may herald a welcome change in the police-public relations. In the past, New Delhi has been turning a blind eye to the concerns over the conduct of troops in J&K virtually exonerating them of the crimes. This has only led to increased resistance to their presence in the state. With police, people may expect a better deal. Police can cash in on this aspect by acting responsibly. Unlike troops, cops committing human rights abuses will not be shielded by laws like AFSPA. This also can act as a safeguard for the rights. Rogue policing has been an issue in Kashmir apart from the fact that they still play second fiddle to troops in militant operations. With the possibilities of police assuming the lead role in the overall handling of situation, there is no room for rogue cops. Accountability has to be the bedrock of police operations and for this the concerned authorities need to start working now”. The recent decision by the police higher-ups to have interactive programmes with the elders and the youth at different places in order to gain their confidence persuade them to refrain from stone pelting is a welcome step. There is need for such steps to bridge the gap between police and public, booking teenagers under PSA for pelting stones would no way help. It is not being used against the Shiv Sena and MNS in Maharashtra who are openly advocating communalism, hatred, threatening leading personalities of India besides taking law in their own hands. If the government can act with restraint there why not in Kashmir, where it is most needed in order to make a positive change.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has time and again reiterated that Kashmir is essentially a political problem and dialogue is the only way out for finding a lasting solution to this problem. However, what we need to understand is the fact that creating a conducive climate is an essential pre-requisite for initiating a meaningful dialogue process. And for this, gaining the faith of the people is a must which can be done by making the institutional setup of the state responsible, transparent and accountable. Taking a stern action in few cases and bringing them to public notice can be a very small cost for gaining something very valuable—trust of the people. Hushing up the cases of human rights violations and protecting the violators is not going to help the cause. And surely the acts like conferring highest civilian awards to people facing charges of loot, intimidation, murder, rape and so on are going to prove detrimental to the efforts of restoring peace, besides the fact that it is an insult to the people who have toiled hard throughout their life to make substantial achievements in their respective fields for the betterment of humanity. The million dollar question is that can we put a person facing serious anti-human charges alongside with the likes of Mother Teresa, Amitabh Bachchan, Teesta Setalvad, Amitav Ghosh, Sachin Tandulkar, Barkha Dutt and so many other personalities who made tremendous contribution in their fields. As the former UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali pointed out, “peace building entails the ‘construction of a new environment’, which not only avoids a relapse into the conflict, but also aims to advance a sense of confidence and well-being among people”(Boutros-Ghali, An Agenda for Peace,1995, p.61). Since police is the most visible manifestation of the state, it bears the largest share of responsibility for creating such environment. And as pointed out by the former Dutch Police officer and the leading international police training expert, Cees de Rover, “ The way the police interacts with the people and enforces the law will delineate the face of peace and justice”.
(The author is Assistant Professor Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 9 Feb 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 9 Feb 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Feb 2010 00:00:00 IST
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