Saga of the Policeman

Vital for state and the society, yet vilified and demonized
Saga of the Policeman
Pic: Mir Imran/GK

Manning traffic on the roads, safeguarding people and property, cracking murder cases, searching the missing, resolving domestic disputes, busting frauds and solving robberies and theft cases, tackling riots and law and order situations; there is ONE arm of the state machinery entrusted with all these crucial duties – POLICE.

A policeman is always on duty; there are no off days in a police station. It is never closed; it never can be. The man in khaki, otherwise just another member of our society, handles all these responsibilities with commitment. Needless to say, in Jammu & Kashmir, Police handles additional duty of anti-insurgency operations. Yet, the dominant feeling is that the society is not as appreciative of Police as it should be. Rather policeman is perhaps demonized than acknowledged. Let's decode the life and times of Policeman.

With the assigned role of service and safety, Police does wield tremendous power as well. Vested with power, do they function with care and commitment is an oft-repeated query? For this article, I spoke to a number of people for their candid views. For most of the respondents, Police is trespassing its role and misusing power. Examples cited are: Students protesting against fee hike, people on roads for water, power cuts, and unemployed youth hitting the streets are beaten and thrashed. It gives rise to enmity and creates a void between police and public. Any eventuality, and we report to police. Why? Because we bank upon them that it is a government's long-arm and they can help us in the hour of need. But why is our police force looked down upon. Why are they called names? They are our very own people. But when they talk tough, ask for bribe and infringe in private affairs, they become "the other".

Why policemen are not respected for their services is a question we need to ponder upon. The police is seen as repressive and crossing all limits of its power. People are terrified of the police. We often have a bad experience with them. Let alone being a solution, the police, themselves, are seen as part of the problem. The failure of criminal justice system has disappointed the law-abiding citizens. Most of the investigations fail to deliver justice. Bogus charge-sheet is an offense. Why are guilty asked to sign plain papers? Oral evidence is hollow and hostile. But our police blindly believes anything and anyone.

When Miami Police personnel kneeled down in solidarity with protesters during George Flyod case last year, Kashmir police force did exceptionally terrific job during lockdown; but the two lakh strong force is caught between two sides. We finish our first class degrees, our parents expect us to earn and feed the family but our empty job market pushes us away. Determined, hundreds join police department annually to keep the hearth warming back home. But our vilification campaigns run by different quarters paste certain tags on them. Anyone who doesn't follow the crowd here is labelled as a traitor. We need to understand the complexities of life. We need routine policing in the community. Many accuse police of being dysfunctional. Is it valid to say that police doesn't uphold the law? Public is angry with the system. Resentment and disappointment with the police's working is brewing. But before we blame the police force, let us know how they operate in hostile conditions. Our police stations are not provided with proper facilities like decent accommodations. Cops are crammed in small rooms. What is the police station's budget to meet public grievances? Has anyone ever bothered to look at the other side of the coin?

Police has to maintain highly responsive complaint redressal mechanism. We need well-trained, well-equipped, and well-paid police constables. Can we have the accountable people's police? The relationships formed between the police and the public should not be based on force, power or suppression but should be based on fellowship, trust and humanity. Friendliness is the most basic attribute required from a policeman. Dear policemen, don't appear fearsome. Let us set aside the anger and focus on possible solutions to improve our police system.

Why the people in power control police? Be it postings, transfers, promotions. Why would a constable work as a cook, tutor for a minister or a bureaucrat? Being faithful towards the power affects the discipline in policing. On September 22, 2006, the apex court of the country passed a historic verdict in its reply to a PIL. The Supreme Court has given specific orders that politicians shall not interfere in police works. The state governments agreed to implement the directives. But they have done very little on the ground. We need police reforms. 92% police force comprises of constables. Have we ever thought what kind of lives do they live?

The professional life of a constable, considered to be backbone of the police force, is full of difficulties. The constabulary led the most challenging lives and work meticulously. During festivals, when everyone celebrates, these constables are away from their loved ones. Newly-weds enjoy life, go out and spend quality time. Soon after the marriage, our policemen are seen rushing to join the duty. This imbalance in work-life is taking a heavy toll on their lives.  Many constables fail to attend their wives in labour pains. They are unable to attend the last rites of family members. Government must understand that they too need to take a break and have a social life. It is agonizing. They lead stressful lives.

A meager salary, having to stay away from families in woeful conditions. How can we expect such a person to be sensitive and sympathetic? There is a joke in police ranks that constables live in hell and hell produces demons, not angels. Constable is a smalltime laborer. He doesn't get due promotions.  Is it the meagre salary of the Constables that pushes him to extort quite a substantial amount from commoners. This is called chai.

The confession made to the police is not admissible in court. It is unacceptable. So, police must not file a charge-sheet on the basis of a confessor over torture. To strengthen the case, there should be supporting evidence. The Police Act (1861) prohibits it. So, are they breaking their own rules? According to the IPC, it is a crime. Yet, such torture tactics are used by police. Here is a simple answer. Helplessness leads to either submission or violence. When a policeman walking on the road is not respected, when he is not loved, he feels humiliated, insulted and alienated. When he is not acknowledged, he feels he is a 'bad boy'. Psychiatrists believe when we programme people about someone that he is a bad, he behaves badly. He is no less than any other professional. He deserves a dignified life. By ostracizing them, we are not doing any good. Many police officers don't sleep for nights together, they get panic attacks, and it affects their mental state. Let's not dehumanize them. There are basic flaws within the internal structure of this important agency of the government. They are saviors. But the misuse of power by some can't be ruled out. In any recreational park, if a couple is having some leisure time, police must not interfere and become a source of scare. When the police officer beats the accused, he breaks down mentally and physically, so does the cop.

Police system was formed after 1857, when British government took over the administration replacing East India Company. They brought three major criminal laws, The CRPC, IPC and the Evidence Act to suppress the freedom struggle. To enforce the laws, they created an army system for policing. In Army system, a protester is considered an enemy and killed. In police system, he is heard, convinced and pacified through talks. In real police system, constables are empowered. Here, people are loved, served, protected, and befriended by policemen. Policemen are public servants, not bosses.

In real police system, a constable should have the potential to rise up the ranks on the record of achievement, in handling major operations and investigations. Ideally police should regularly visit the area, meet people, enquire, interact and comfort them. But they are caught in a devil and deep sea situation. Women cops are living miserable lives. From constables to top-cops I interacted with, I saw these young men and women are fighting different battles on several fronts and most of them are not heard. I hope this piece pushes readers to rethink about the perspectives of what it means to be a policeman in Kashmir.

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