Monday, 16 May, 2022
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Lynching becomes heart attack, victim pays not rapist & rope turns snake in police-neta raj

The police-politician nexus isn’t new. But it has worsened dramatically and IPS has now lost its moral and professional centre of gravity.

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Here is a trick question for this week: Is India a police state?

Three immediate responses could be: Of course not, regrettably yes, or, not yet?

You can also go ahead and add a “why”, how” and “when” to it.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of a police state is rather stern: A totalitarian state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises its citizens’ activities. We aren’t there yet. But there are issues we can’t kick under the sofa.

India may have not yet become a police state, but is becoming one where the police are a law unto themselves. The police-political nexus is now overpowering even the executive magistracy (IAS) and the judiciary.

Some recent and random pointers:

  • The Tabrez Ansari case. The 24-year-old in Jharkhand was beaten to death by a mob on suspicion of bicycle theft. The police reduced it to a case of beating and assault and declared he had died not of beating (murder) but due to cardiac arrest. It took a team of conscientious doctors to call this fraud.
  • Pehlu Khan “cow” lynching case in Rajasthan, where all accused were acquitted though they’d been caught on camera. The police never presented the full evidence, including the camera on which these videos were shot. The state government has ordered a re-investigation now. But when the police investigated and finalised the prosecution case, the BJP was still in power.
  • Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the BJP MLA from Unnao, brazened out rape charges by a teenager. Rather than give her justice, police arrested her father who somehow ‘died’ in their custody. They had charged him, instead, with possessing illegal firearms. Now, after the suspected attempt to kill the girl and her lawyer caused an outcry, three policemen are also charged by the CBI as accomplices in the case.
  • Delhi Police just registered a case of sedition against activist and Kashmir politician Shehla Rashid merely on the complaint of an individual. A citizen can be charged for sedition only by the state. Police registering sedition cases on private complaints makes a mockery of law and causes enormous harassment and legal expense to a citizen. It can also mean months spent in jail without trial, as with Kanhaiya Kumar. This happened, coincidentally, in the week that serving Supreme Court Judge Deepak Gupta said in a speech that criticism of government, bureaucracy or armed forces wasn’t sedition.

This list is by no means exhaustive.

It is true that the police are the favourite whipping boys when something goes wrong. Theirs is the most thankless job among our institutions of administrative governance. Over the decades, the political class has learnt to use — or misuse — them as uniformed mafias. But, is that all there is to it? Aren’t the police, their leadership, or the exalted IPS (Indian Police Service) also to blame?

We cannot imagine any of these cases ending up the way they did if a senior enough officer had applied his mind with some degree of honesty. It is criminal to pretend that it’s only the job of the courts to give justice. Any citizen, even a resourceful one, suffers for years as the process itself becomes the punishment. Then, there are cases where judges throw their hands up in frustration at the lack of evidence.

Our jails are filled with more undertrials than convicts. Many spend years in jail before they are acquitted or even discharged. We instinctively blame our courts and judges. But we hide from the elephant in the room: Our police service that is cowardly, callous and arrogant, complicit with the political masters, incompetent and rarely held accountable for the damage it does to the credibility of our system of law enforcement and justice. Of course, there are honourable exceptions now and then.

In so many years of tracking important or high-profile cases, ranging from corruption to mob lynching, we have rarely, if ever, seen an IPS officer either say, no boss, no case is made out here, so let’s not harass an innocent person just because you don’t like him or because you want to force him to defect to your party.

Nor have we seen anyone say, no boss, it isn’t an honourable thing for me to ‘fix’ an investigation or prosecution to protect someone you like very much. On the other hand, over the last many years, the IPS has become the most ‘committed’ service of the political masters.

The old heartland metaphor goes: If you leave it to the police, they can turn a rope into a snake (rassi ko saanp). Many cases lately, especially those of mob lynching in BJP-ruled states, also demonstrate that now they can also do the opposite: Turn a snake into a rope. Or, turn millions into billions in a corruption case (2G), billions into nothing (Ballary brothers), a lynching into a heart attack, an impoverished rape victim’s father into a hardened criminal, and a wild private complaint into a sedition FIR. Whatever might please the bosses.

The police-politician nexus isn’t a recent invention. But it has worsened dramatically in the last decade. It probably began with the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement and the public anger it unleashed. Everyone wanted to send everyone else in power to jail, and all of a sudden it seemed there was only a policing solution to this.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, in its pristine original version, was a charter for a suspicious police state. Activists, the media, and most importantly the Supreme Court also bought into the idea. The CBI was now supposed to be the great corruption fighter this country had been waiting for.

The Supreme Court called it a caged parrot, and then decided to free it, but only in cases it had handpicked. The most shocking and counterproductive derivative of this was the abomination of “court-monitored” inquiries by special investigating teams. We use a description as strong as ‘abomination’ consciously as one of the judicial innovations accompanying this was the Supreme Court pretty much giving routine directions to trial courts, including to deny bail to the accused.

The results were disastrous. It made a corrupt and compromised police service more corrupt with extraordinary powers. Since then, three of the last four CBI directors have retired or been fired under the shadow of serious corruption cases. Of course, the two mega corruption cases because of which the courts and public opinion had given the police such powers went to pieces in the trial courts. Scores of innocent lives, some honest civil servants included, were destroyed, having spent months in Tihar as undertrials.

Thus began the “golden” era of police power. The UPA was using the same police force, the CBI, to target Amit Shah (then Gujarat’s junior home minister) and his loyal IPS officers in cases of alleged fake encounters. Such was the desperation that the CBI team, under instructions from the UPA, even tried to arraign the Centre’s own Intelligence Bureau head in Gujarat in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

Sure enough, on his retirement towards the last year of the UPA, the officer heading this investigation was about to be appointed vice-chancellor of a central university in reward for his ‘services’. Until some in the media exposed it and the Manmohan Singh government retreated. Meanwhile, the political winds were shifting. The same hotshot cops in the CBI sensed it, and it took no time for the cases to collapse. Our police cannot merely turn a rope into a snake, but also back into a rope, should the political ‘circumstances’ change.

We can go backwards and see the first signs of this professional collapse in the Jain hawala cases that P.V. Narasimha Rao filed to fix his rivals. This is when the CBI learnt the doctrine of ‘prosecution by leaks and character assassination’. Several promising political careers (including L.K. Advani’s) were stalled, some destroyed. By now, that doctrine of ‘character assassination by leaks’ has been perfected into a fine art by the CBI, and across our state police forces.

We know many young and sharp IPS officers who enter the service oozing idealism. In the course of time, however, they lose their way and focus, somewhere between wanting to be Singham but ending up being a cruel caricature of themselves like in Special 26.

No, India isn’t a police state yet. But Indian police, especially the IPS, has become our most politically compromised service. Beginning with the many pre-Independence doyens of IIP (Indian Imperial Police), the predecessor of IPS, the service has had iconic figures such as K.F. Rustamji, Ashwani Kumar, Julio Ribeiro, M.K. Narayanan, K.P.S. Gill, Prakash Singh, Ajit Doval, M.N. Singh and more who gave their service a moral and professional centre of gravity.

Today, there’s none and the IPS has reduced itself, most regrettably, into the Indian Political Service.

Also read: Unnao rape accused Kuldeep Sengar ‘unusually quiet’ in Tihar jail, keeps to himself


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  1. The writer is right about one thing. The list of lynchings is incomplete. Here are a few more examples –
    1. 31st July 2015 – the famous Azam Khan constituency (15-year-old boy dies in Rampur communal clashes)
    A cattle from “majority community” entered into field of a “minority community”. A scuffle followed following which two members of “majority community” Jitendra and Raju Singh sustained severe injuries. Later in the evening it was announced from mosque to teach lesson to “majority community” following which there was a mass gathering and firing on a religious site leading to killing of 15 year old “Sanju Rathore”. Many villagers have left the village fearing more violence.
    2. 24th June 2015, Kaushambi
    A bus driver Ramesh was honking for way at junction which angered Qaisar and Vakeel, who beat Ramesh to death. On opposition, there was tension between the two communities.

    Going a way back –
    1. 1265 AD – Almost all the Rajputs of Mewat were completely exterminated by Delhi Sultan Ghiyas ud din Balban during the massacre.
    2. 1323 AD – 12,000 Hindu ascetics at or around the temple were slaughtered by Muhammad bin Tughluq’s soldiers while they city was sacked.
    3. !353 AD approx – Firuz Shah invaded Bengal after it rebelled and paid for the 180,000 heads of Hindus massacred by his soldiers.
    4. 1366 AD approx – 500,000 inhabitants were massacred in all the districts surrounding Vijayanagara by the Bahmani Sultanate soldiers. In Raichur Doab alone, 70,000 Hindus were massacred by the army of the Bahmani Sultanate in response to killing of the garrison of Mudgal. I could go on, but coming to independent India:
    1. 1966 (anti cow slaughter agitation) – Hindu Sadhus and protestors killed by government
    2. 1984 (anti sikh riots) – 2,800 to 8,000 Sikhs all over India. Series of pogroms by Congress supporters after Assassination of Indira Gandhi.
    3. Related to 1984 riots – 32 Sikhs killed. Rioting by Indian National Congress Party members after Assassination of Indira Gandhi.
    4. 1990 Kashmiri Hindu killings – Officially 219 Hindus; though estimates as high as 1,341 have been reported.
    5. Ayodhya police firing – Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered the police to open fire on kar sevaks who reached Ayodhya. The dead bodies were allegedly thrown in Saryu river.
    6. 1998 Wandhama massacre. 23 Kashmiri Pandits killed
    7. 1998 Prankote massacre 17 April 1998 Jammu and Kashmir 26 Hindus killed
    8. 1998 Chapnari massacre (19 June 1998) Chapnari, Jammu and Kashmir 25 Hindus killed. Allegedly perpetrated by Pakistani-backed insurgents.
    9. 1998 Chamba massacre – 35 Hindus killed. Attack by Islamic militant group
    10. 2000 Amarnath pilgrimage massacre 1 August 2000 Jammu and Kashmir 30 (Hindu pilgrims) killed. Attack by Muslim militants
    11. 2001 Kishtwar massacre 3 August 2001 Jammu and Kashmir 19 Hindus killed Attack by Muslim militants

    There are hundreds of such examples. These are onle a few.

  2. You call the likes of KPS Gill moral and professional? Lmao he has killed millions under the pretext of catching terrorist… embazzeled money from people threatening to kill their kids labelled as terrorist…your article is as rubbish and political as the views you use to denounce IPS officers.

  3. India when it was friends with the erstwhile soviet union was unlike the ussr in that we did not have a kgb , but now we have a kgb cum stasi cum whatever , all state organizations have been melded together to make for huge ISI.

  4. Old adages have survived because they give timeless wisdom. One such says, IT IS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN. Just as things seem absolutely hopeless today, just as one or two people have started believing that they are mighty like god, we can be 100% sure that the Real God is about to pull the rug from under their feet. (Actually I should have said THREE people… No I don’t mean Shekhar Gupta’s dear friend Ajit Doval… I mean a full General by the name Bipin Rawat, who is possessed by the ghost of another full General, who went by the name General Sunderji.)

  5. Kudos to you sir
    You bring the most heinous nexus of today’s era before the public in black and white with detailed and concrete facts.
    The IPS has become the most defunct structure of policing . They do nothing and enjoy everything . They are really a shame fir society in uniform .

  6. Why is Doval in your list?

    This is a great article and hits the nail on the head that India has for at least the last 50 odd years never been a place with law order. Not only the IPS but the IAS as well are completely rotten and the only reason Indians celebrate and worship these services is the power, impunity and ROI it provides. Frankly the citizens deserve these corrupt and incompetent cops and civil servants as we are used to living in servility.

  7. Now the time has come to take concrete step to tackle this nexus between ips officers and their political masters for the safe guard of our national unity and integrity.political leaders use these officers as a tool to eliminate their rivals as well as consolidate themselves in power and in return these officers get praise postings and lucrative post retirement settlement.This trend is very dangerous for our democracy.

    • Fully agreed Madmax…Mr Gupta is not only silly but also a sanghi. He says alleged fake encounters if it is fake how will a person die. This shows that sanghis like Gupta don’t have logic. Also he says in 2g millions were changed to billions. He doesn’t even know that his master sanghis used to say crores.

  8. In the states, the CM is king, all the more if his high command is not in Delhi. The IAS too has mellowed, one cannot visualise a chief secretary taking a principled stand contrary to what the CM desires. Even in a rare instance of standing by a wronged junior colleague. There are lots of unimportant posts to which upright mandarins can be despatched. However, as the column notes, the process has advanced much further with the cops. Possibly because they deal with the raw, coercive power of the state in a manner that the average IAS officer does not. 2. Not an unfair question to ask, To what extent is this hollowing out the capacity of the Indian state / states to deal with challenges like terrorism or organised crime. Even simple things like keeping ordinary citizens safe.

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