Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is desperate to get control of Delhi Police and now we know why: they are the most loyal and supine uniformed force any political master can dream of. He learnt it the hard way. Delhi Police, which comes under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, kept filing cases against the Aam Aadmi Party MLAs. Most of them resulted in acquittal or discharge.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students had to sustain injuries to learn it, though. Remember the old joke about the Indian police? At an international police conference, the Scotland Yard claimed they solve a case within 12 hours of the occurrence of the crime. As police forces from other countries spoke of their abilities, the Indian police official butted in: “Huh, we know about the crime 12 hours before it happens. So, we have nothing to solve.”
JNU students were at the receiving end of this joke on 5 January as masked goons entered the campus with sticks and rods, beat them up and left — all under the watch of Delhi Police.
A bizarre tale
The uniformed men’s words and actions in subsequent days have been hilarious. They were booking JNU students’ union president Aishe Ghosh even as she was bleeding from the head after being attacked. At a press conference Friday, a deputy commissioner of police named nine “suspects”, including Ghosh. DCP (crime) Joy Tirkey read out the names of four Leftist organisations to which seven of them belonged, but conveniently didn’t mention that the other two were from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The police version was curiously worded. It didn’t specify the incident for which they had booked the suspects — the one on January 5 when goons entered the campus or for vandalism at the university’s server room two days earlier against which the JNU administration had lodged FIRs? Imagine the police publicising the names and pictures of students merely on the basis of preliminary investigations.
It was right on cue as union ministers were quick to cite the ‘suspects’ to blame the Left for 5 January violence. After a sting operation by India Today TV revealed the involvement of ABVP activists and found gaping holes in Delhi Police’s version, the DCP and the police commissioner sought to wriggle out, saying that the ‘suspects’ were linked only with 3 and 4 January incidents.
Governed by politics
It’s the same Delhi Police that, when slapped and thrashed by lawyers, held protests outside its headquarters. It’s the same police commissioner, Amulya Patnaik, who silently heard the vote of no confidence in him by his subordinates, the protesters, who shouted the slogan of “police commissioner kaisa ho, Kiran Bedi jaisa ho (a police commissioner should be like Kiran Bedi).” Patnaik is retiring this month. His predecessor, Alok Verma, had gone on to become the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Verma’s predecessor, Bhim Sain Bassi, under whose watch sedition charges were slapped against then JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and others, was appointed a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) after his retirement. Look at the list of Delhi Police commissioners; this post has taken them places.
Why should you then expect Patnaik to act in real life like the Goa police commissioner in reel life — in Ajay Devgn-starrer Singham? In the film, the villain, surrounded by cops who wanted to kill him, seeks the police commissioner’s help. “Police commissioner so raha hai…. He has taken a sleeping pill,” says the reel life officer, explaining how he was tired of serving political masters. Also in the film, an about-to-retire constable shares his experience: “This is how it works here. Is desh ki rajneeti mein system ho na ho, yahan ke system mein rajneeti zaroor chalta hai (there may or may not be any system in the politics of this country, but politics is definitely there in the system).”
Some still have it
So, are we asking too much from Delhi Police — or for that matter, Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh Police — as part of that system? No.
There are stories galore about people in police uniform taking on politicians of all hues. We all saw BJP MLAs stage a sit-in protest in Uttar Pradesh assembly in support of a colleague against whom the police had lodged several FIRs. Booking a ruling party legislator in Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh requires some guts. Obviously, there are still some police officials in UP who have it. There must be a lot more in the national capital.
If you take politics out of the system, Delhi Police is much more professional than their counterparts in most cities and states. A city of Delhi’s size with such socio-economic challenges and variations is not easy to police. Keeping politics out of the police system in the country’s capital is also easier said than done. That’s why Delhi Police needs a Bajirao Singham jismein hai dum.
To salvage its reputation, Delhi Police needs to not just be fair, but also be seen to be fair. It will not happen if they storm into Jamia Millia Islamia without seeking the vice-chancellor’s permission but wait for the permission outside the JNU gate when goons beat up students. It will also not happen if they hold press conferences with half-baked theories to give talking points to their political masters.
There are many potential Singhams in Delhi Police but for them to emerge, the police commissioner must take sleeping pills.