Fragrance of fire

22 09 2008

Source: TOI
More articles of the author can be found at TOI

Delhi is mourning the death of Inspector M C Sharma who dared to take on the terrorists hiding in Jamia Nagar. It’s rare that police force gets such an appreciation and salute that is otherwise reserved for the armed forces. The reactions of the people and the anchors on the news channels were sad, moist and genuine.

Why did he have to have this martyrdom?

The men in Khaki are more known and portrayed in movies as lazy, corrupt, unintelligent and seekers of pleasure at public cost. Few know the trying circumstances they work in and the salaries they draw. They are facing the Communist terrorism in thirteen states, their martyrdom in action, go often less reported and almost unsung. They are given the most outdated rifles and equipment and the facilities to act against terrorists who are cunning, resourceful and heavily armed with modern weapons. The police laws are shamefully inadequate. Indian police was governed under the 1861 act of the British government that was meant for the colonial brute force to control subjugated natives till 2006.

As close as 16th July, the Maoists in Orissa killed 21 policemen. In 2007, Maoists had killed 22 policemen in Bihar. According to a newspaper report, Bihar, one of the worst Maoist affected states along with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, has the lowest police-people ratio. Over 19,000 posts in the state police department have not been filled up. In March 2007 the Maoists had killed 50 policemen in Chhattisgarh. During Rajasthan’s Gujjar movement in May this year, unruly protestors beheaded a policeman.

Every one, including the politician, loves to deride and insult police openly and get applause. But every one wants police to help them in times of distress and crisis. From a small traffic accident to domestic violence and petty thefts to Nithari ‘s cannibals and Arushi murder, it’s the police that faces the public and is under constant pressure to show results. The politicians use them as domestic servants and commission agents, corrupting them and in turn helping out of turn the facilitator men in Khaki. Yet the most important task – to reform and modernize the police force – remains in cold storage till something like Delhi blasts occur and there is a huge pressure built up by people and media on the government. Then just to avoid the immediate criticism a few announcements are made to spend a few more crores on police force. No body knows how many years would take to see these announcements implemented.

It was in July 2006 that the Indian government had unveiled an ambitious Rs.52 billion plan for modernising the Central and state police forces. The money is yet to be utilized. Manipur, for example, which is declared ‘A’ class seeing high incidents of insurgency, didn’t spend eight crores earmarked for police modernization yet showed it as ‘spent’ in accounts, which was detected in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Lack of men power, political interference, a tendency to demoralize the honest and upright officers, lack of coordination between different forces and a complete absence of a mechanism to share information and cooperate with each other amongst various shades of police forces, including para-military security organisations make the task of police more difficult and cumbersome.

The level of demoralization in police forces is well exemplified by a recent report from Hyderabad that says: “Police stations in at least 100 mandals across the state do not want to avail four and six wheelers fearing landmine attacks by the Maoists. This comes following intelligence inputs that cops deployed in the jurisdiction of these police stations run the highest risk of being targeted by the Naxals. Currently, there are 1,559 police stations in the state of which about 700 have no four wheelers for mobility. Though the police department provided at least 207 vehicles to the police stations through the Police Transport Organisation, the Naxal-hit areas have not been included. A senior police officer said, “There are several instances of Naxals targeting police personnel moving in four wheelers. Landmines and claymore mines are a big threat to the police teams travelling in jeeps and buses in the Naxal-hit Andhra-Orissa border, Khammam-Chhattisgarh border, North Telangana and surroundings of Nallamala.’ Police usually move in private vehicles and sometimes on two-wheelers in the Maoist-hit zones.”

Those who shoulder the responsibility to provide security to people are left high and dry when the question of their own security arises. Just a month ago an ambitious scheme has been passed by the Union Cabinet, which aims to strengthen police force in Naxal affected areas by raising 10 battalions (10,000 personnel) at a cost of Rs 1389.47 crore. After debating on the proposal for nearly eight months, the Union Home Ministry finally moved the Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for raising the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA), which will be similar to ‘Greyhounds’ of Andhra Pradesh Police. The Left-extremism, termed by the Prime Minister as a “virus”, has engulfed nearly 13 states.

But it’s not just the Naxal affected areas but the entire police network that needs a complete and radical overhaul. Their training needs a Japanese touch which has the best of Eastern values and a tough power to eliminate the rogues. The first and foremost thing that needs to be done is to make the police set up autonomous and remove all the traces of colonialism from the police force, that essentially includes taking off the Khaki colour, which reminds of the imperial British brutishness. In UP and Bihar, old Willy’s jeeps, reminding of the Sholay days and dacoit trail are in vogue with policemen wielding 303 guns.

The National Police Commission (NPC), created by the government in 1977, had submitted eight detailed reports during 1979-81, with comprehensive recommendations covering the entire gamut of police work. None was implemented completely. It was only because of a petition to the Supreme Court by one of the most able, honest and spirited police officers, Prakash Singh that the obnoxious Police Act of 1861 was struck down in one go in September 2006. That too happened, not surprisingly, having ‘heard’ the petition for ten long years. The Supreme Court said, “we think that there cannot be any further wait, and the stage has come for issue of appropriate directions for immediate compliance so as to be operative till such time as a new Model Police Act is prepared by the Central Government and/or the state governments pass the requisite legislations.”

The Supreme Court ordered the establishment of three institutions at the state level with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences, according functional autonomy and ensuring accountability. These were:

• A State Security Commission to lay down broad policies and give directions relating to the preventive and service-oriented functions of the police.
• A Police Establishment Board, comprising the Director-General of Police and four other senior officers to decide on all transfers, postings, promotions and other service-related matters of officers of and below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police. The Board was also tasked with making appropriate recommendations to the state government regarding the postings and transfers of officers of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above.
• A Police Complaints Authority at the district and state level to look into allegations of misconduct by police personnel.

In addition, the apex court ordered that the Director-General of Police should be selected by state governments from the three senior-most officers empanelled for promotion to that rank by the UPSC. It further stipulated that the DGP should have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years. Police officers on operational duty in the field, like the Inspector general (IG) Zone, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Range, SP in charge of a district and Station House Officer (SHO) should also have a minimum tenure of two years.

But hardly these have been followed because every time there is a regime change, the entire police set up too is changed buy the incumbent political masters, bringing in their protégés and punishing those whom they thing had side with their rivals. This affects the respect for the able in the force and the virus goes down vertically.
Certainly there are still good officers in the police force and they need protection of law. It’s high time that the police forces’ control be taken off the authorities of the political set up and put under a professional autonomous body so that the people are secured and the moral of the brave men in khaki is also restored.

Security forces, whether in khaki or olive green, represent the spine of the land and the life of public institutions and democratic mechanism depends on them. Sadly they are the most ignored and left out segments. How the relatives of those brave security personnel, who were killed in action saving the lives of the parliamentarians, felt compelled to return the decorations given to their children is the saddest stories of state’s failure in recent times.

While we are nearing another anniversary of 13th December, when Parliament was attacked, can we hope that all the parties would come together to provide more teeth and facilities to our security forces and encourage their morale so that the best talent in our society feels a pride in joining forces and be the real ‘bobby’ of the people? They are the fragrance of the fire of nobility in our society; let that be preserved with all our support.

The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.

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Freedom of Expression

15 03 2008

Freedom of Expression

Assaulting an Indian dream
Monday, March 17, 2008

Source : Nagarealm.com

More than a hundred thousand civilians have been murdered in cold blood since 1986 in ideological hate attacks in India. Most of them invariably were Hindus. Though Hindus are there in every party and state machinery, there has been hardly a voice of reason, angst and pain raised effectively against assaults on Hindus during all these years, as if Hindus still feel they are living under an oppressive un-Hindu regime and hence it’s better to suffer in silence and be thankful to the oppressors for small mercies.

It’s amazing. The sheer nature of compromise and an attitude of self-denial , the auto suggestion to keep mum if slapped, otherwise you will lose votes and power, has de-nationalised governors and polity to such an extent that a lady minister thinks it beneficial to visit the office of the assaulters on Hindus, sympathising with the attackers but chooses to remain silent over the gruesome murders of five Indian citizens in an Indian town Kannur, just because the governance depends on the support of the assaulters and victims do not figure in their voters list. Is this the government for only those who form the ruling coalition or for all Indians?

So much humiliation and insults have gone deep into our blood that even to say, oh we were attacked not for any other reason but just because we wore saffron, we were Hindus, makes many of us feel embarrassed and declare oh, what’s the use of remembering what happened to our ancestors, it will further create bad blood and hatred. But this is ‘true’ only when Hindus are victims. In every single other incident, its ‘prudent’, ‘wise’ and ‘essentially readable a thousand times’. Movies on Hindu ‘lumpens and aggressors’ are facilitated to bag state awards and included in international film festivals. I have seen a couple of such aggressively secular ‘missionary’ documentaries. It is difficult to appreciate the tone and tenor of utterly hateful commentaries, which rely more on fabricated unsustainable allegations and communally surcharged picturisation.

A precipitated hate against Hindus in an influential part of polity and media showed its first face, post- partition, immediately after the Tricolour was unfurled at the Red Fort. The Mirpur, Mujaffarbad, Pindi massacres of Hindus put even the Nazis to shame. It’s difficult to re-count those incidents of blood and gore and unimaginable brutalities on Hindu women and children. It was so horrifying that Hindus dread even to remember that. But it figures nowhere in media, though they recount world war, Pol Pot ,Vietnam but not massacres of Hindus in the erstwhile East Pakistan and Kashmir. In North East, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), which is fighting to crate a greater Nagaland for Christ, United Liberation Front of Assam and many such fronts in Tripura and Manipur, Maoists extremists active from Orissa to the states of UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and Islamist Jihadis under various banners have been targetting Hindus under different pretexts like in Assam they call them as Hindi- speaking people and in Kashmir its just KPs(Kashmiri Pandits).

And now, we have Kannur. What has changed in this sixty-one-year of progress, secular rule and increasingly impressive listings in Forbes list? Hindus being targeted just for their colour of faith and assertive Hindutwa is a matter of embarrassment. Two recent incidents have made me feel like re-visiting Godhra, where Hindus were victims and Hindus were blamed for having organised their death in a burning inferno! Everyone condemned Gujarat riots where Hindus and Muslims both were victims, but never even for once we have seen a secularist answering a question-why were Hindus burnt alive in Sabarmati express?

Why not a single secular human rightist has taken up the case of Godhra victims? Why Gujarat riots means only ‘Muslims killed’ and hundreds of Hindus killed are simply forgotten as if they were unmentionable dirt? Every single Indian facing injustice, no matter what the colour of his faith is, must get support from all patriots. Why colour of death decides the hues of support?

In the killing fields of Kannur, five RSS-BJP workers were hacked to death in a matter of four days ( http://tarun-vijay.blogspot.com/ ). Those killed were low income group wage earners like auto rickshaw and truck drivers. Since CPM has come to power in Kerala in 2006, 20 RSS workers have been murdered for their saffron leanings. No animosity of any other count but just belonging to a different and growing ideology was their crime. In 2003, a teacher K.T. Jayakrishnana was hacked to death before the tiny tot children he was teaching. On 17th September 1996, two ABVP activists, Anu and Kim, were cornered in a college in Parumala and threatened to be killed for joining a saffron student’s organisation. Fearing death too close, the students ran and tried to swim across the Pampa river, but the SFI goons stoned them so severely that they were forced drowned. Even the women washing near the river tried to throw their sarees to the drowning students, but were stopped by Communist student leaders. Both the dead youngsters were the only offspring of their families. The killings of RSS workers in Kannur have a background to it. It was here that the Communist Party was formed in Kerala in 1940 and the place is considered a stronghold of the Left in the state. Since early sixties, the RSS began its work here and soon workers from lower income group, especially the backward, dalit segment were attracted towards it. This angered the CPM cadre and leadership and to harass and instil a fear in the CPM workers who were joining RSS, the first murder of a saffron worker took place in 1967. His name was Ramakrishnan. I have received a letter describing why violence is not stopping in Kannur against Hindu workers from Sadananda master, a teacher in Kannur whose both legs were chopped off in 1994 because he was organising RSS work there. He is still a teacher, and continues to do RSS work.

From Nandigram to Kannur, Communist terrorism has taken different shapes and shades. Their ideological cohort Maoists have emerged the largest single murderer-outfits responsible for killings and looting ( http://www.mha.nic.in/Annual-Reports/ar0607_Eng.pdf ). Yet they have captured the space for peace initiatives and candle light marches!! They don’t know, a worker killed may have a red or a saffron colour, but the colour of the tears of their mothers remain the same. Ideological apartheid and a policy to annihilate the differing people is a legacy of the Communist and Islamic intolerant groups. This creates a chain reaction. Unfortunately media too takes a narrow sectarian view and sides with groups that thrive on a secular bias against anything saffron.

The entire Europe and India’s anti-fascists churn out tones of literature against Nazi barbarities and make it sure that the new generation is taught about how bad Hitler was. This is considered an essential exercise in secularising the society and building brain walls against recurrence of such dark periods. But if in the same spirit of building resistance to the barbarities of Dark Age represented by Aurangzeb, an exhibition is sought to be displayed, it is uprooted and closed by the secular state power. This happened in Chennai where police ordered forcible closure of an innocuously presented exhibition on Aurangzeb, according to Mogul documents.

The exhibition was organised by a French journalist Francois Gautier, who is an ardent devotee of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, an apostle of universal brotherhood and peace. The purpose was to depict Aurangzeb as he was seen by Mogul chroniclers and his confidants. The secular politicians are afraid of two things -showing disrespect to Aurangzeb and showing respect to his blood brother Dara Shikoh, a noble hearted Muslim whom he got murdered. Its important to recollect that not only the dreaded terrorists active in Kashmir like to call their actions of brutality in the name of Islam as continuing the ‘great legacy of Aurangzeb’ but in Pakistan the craze amongst the anti-India leaders is to decorate themselves with the title of Aurangzeb in order to show their devotion and zeal to the cause of their religion.

This situation says a lot about the dispossession of the Hindus and their severe loss of memory resulting in disinterestedness in resisting assaults on their soul. Every party has Hindus as leaders, but they feel to speak for Hindus is a matter of political loss. They shine individually but fail collectively. In spite of being the victims of hate and assaults since centuries, there is not a single museum of holocaust in this land depicting the long journey of Hindus through indescribable travails and their glorious history of resistance. There is not a single institution of excellence in India devoted to the study of Hindu resistance and assaults on their body and mind. Indian leaders, mostly Hindus, have earned hundreds of crores, amassed great amount of wealth, but most of it is spent in downsizing their colleagues, living in extravaganza, launching missiles against their rivals rather than using it, for once to reawaken the memories of their collective glorious past and struggles of their ancestors to inspire and lighten up a grand future. Its an intellectual war to be fought with warriors of wisdom rather than political gatekeepers and durbans. A community which forgets insults and doesn’t make amends to put up a courageous resistance can’t hope to weave a future of respect. It’s not against any other people but on the contrary a Hindu solidarity alone is a guarantee of peaceful co-existence and equality testified by our long history. And it certainly means a society without any caste discriminations, asserting one single identity-the Indian Tricolour. A Hindu observing caste or region based discriminations and prejudice is less than a Hindu. Make him feel ashamed of his narrow-mindedness. Breaking the stranglehold of caste in politics and social mobility corridors is another Independence struggle to realise the Indian dream.

There can’t be an American dream deleting the memories of Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln and Martin Luther King and making Americans feel embarrassed about their Latin Christian character that defines the colour of the land. There can’t be an Indian dream by targeting Hindus for their legitimate saffron assertions. [Tarun Vijay, TNN]

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The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.