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HomeOpinionTime to depoliticise Indian police. It can be Modi's Sudarshan Chakra

Time to depoliticise Indian police. It can be Modi’s Sudarshan Chakra

Indian citizens lost trust in the State over the years, but not in PM Narendra Modi. Can he privilege India over the BJP?

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The tragic loss of 22 policemen in a Naxalite ambush in the jungles of Chhattisgarh on 4 April invoked memories of earlier such incidents with the worst being the loss of 76 lives in Dantewada in 2010. As part of an old pattern, political and institutional homilies followed promises of revenge. One can be fairly certain that the matter will be officially investigated, and a politically patronised cover-up carried out, with only the lower-level officials facing the brunt. Life will continue as before, till another incident comes along, and the cycle will be repeated ad nauseam. The police leadership will continue to promise solutions to politicians as long as their numbers are increased, and going by the recent raising of CRPF battalions, financial constraints do not seem to come in the way of pumping up numbers. If only somebody educated India’s politicians that the qualitative inadequacies in the CRPF cannot be made good by numbers.

The bigger picture and the truth is that for a long period of time, nearly 4,000 square kilometres of territory in south Bastar was in control of the Naxals. In a recent interview, the IG Police, Bastar, said that it has now been shrunk, but an area of 1,000 square kilometres is still with the Naxals. The executive is fully aware of it. Parliament and the media have chosen to remain silent.

Running in parallel is l’affaire Param Bir Singh, the former DGP of Maharashtra, who after being sacked went to court complaining against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh. From what is publicly known so far, the role of the toxic underbelly, which is an admixture of corruption, criminality and political chicanery involving the nexus of political executive-bureaucracy, seems all too evident. As details keep emerging, it seems that the political-police nexus was all-pervasive. It stinks.

No doubt, both these incidents have completely different contexts. One is about the avoidable loss of lives in a situation of armed uprising in the tribal belt of central India. The other is about corruption and possible murder by the law keepers themselves under the tutelage of their superiors. Both these incidents may seem unconnected, but even a casual look reveals that the dramatis personae remain unchanged, except they appear in different forms and contexts. Both incidents relate to politicisation and control by the executive of the police, and in both, the executive and the police lack accountability.

Also read: Army, IB, CRPF — India needs culture of accountability to prevent Chhattisgarh, Ladakh repeat

Lapses over and over

In the Chhattisgarh CRPF ambush case, the politicians have been deluding themselves and the general public that a closed-fist approach should be the main prong of their strategy. It completely ignores the fact that the tribal people are among the oldest residents of India that is Bharat. Many of their socio-economic grievances are genuine and their basic human rights have been violated time and again. And that is how they came under Naxal influence.

Political incompetency has combined with gross operational stupidity of the police leadership to use large groups that can never retain the element of surprise, which is the key to success. No wonder the CRPF, supposedly the hunter, is often the hunted.

The political leadership at the Centre and the states must take responsibility for failing to implement reforms against politicisation and criminalisation of police, deepening parliamentary oversight of the executive, loosening political control by the executive, and the lack of accountability to the people. This is despite continued lapses and many studies and reports calling for reforms. The contents of the E.N. Rammohan report that examined the Dantewada incident in 2010 has never been publicly revealed.

The current Mumbai DGP case reveals the politicians’ nexus with pliant police leadership to operate above the law. The N.N. Vohra Report of 1993 and many reports after have all flagged the linkages between the underworld, politicians and the bureaucracy. But any approach for rectification must deal with the criminal justice system of which the police is only a part.

In 2003, while examining the criminal justice system, the Justice Malimath Committee Report had stated: “The police system in the Country is functioning under the archaic Indian Police Act which was enacted in 1861 for the perpetuation of the British Empire. The police now have an obligation and duty to function according to the requirements of the Constitution, law and democratic aspirations of the people. Further, the police is required to be a professional and service-oriented organisation, free from undue extraneous influences and yet be accountable to the people. Besides, it is necessary to have the police force which is professionally controlled and is politically neutral, non-authoritarian, people friendly and professionally efficient.”

To be fair, all politicians and police leadership cannot be tarred with the same brush. However, the number of politicians with criminal backgrounds have been on the rise, and calls for electoral reforms to improve the quality of political leadership have been studiously ignored by all parties. In addition, there is a complete lack of political will to enforce police reforms despite the Supreme Court judgment more than 15 years ago. Political leaders have increasingly chosen to rule by laws of their own preference instead of by the rule of law. With so many broken parts of the criminal justice system, some states have clearly empowered the police to deliver ‘justice’ through illegal killings. Both at the Centre and the states, neutralising political opponents through abuse of power vested in intelligence and investigative agencies – that became a widespread practice with Indira Gandhi – has in its recent manifestations become equally, if not more, malevolent.

Also read: Why Modi doesn’t feature in a list of India’s reformist prime ministers

Time for Modi to step up

In contemporary times, a large part of India’s citizenry under the impact of Covid-19, seems to be under duress and is expecting the State to protect it, politically, economically and socially. They have lost trust in the State over the years. But they have not lost trust in Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The pertinent issue is that trust in Modi is directly experienced as an emotion. However, the distrust of the State and its organs is like a bad odour that refuses to go away. This is not to say that certain sections of the citizenry are not culpable. They do not often fulfil responsibilities of citizenship. They may have learnt to survive by paying their way out of trouble. But with the example the State has normally been setting, the loss of trust of citizens in the Indian State does not augur well for India’s future. The country cannot find its potential if the character of elected leaders is moving steadily towards criminalised probity, the police deliver justice and the judiciary is ineffective. No amount of defence preparations against external enemies can protect the Indian State from this type of threat it may pose to itself. The threat is insidious. But the silver lining is that India’s main hope can be Narendra Modi.

But only if Modi, the immensely popular leader, can privilege the Indian State over the Bharatiya Janata Party. It would require risking short-term for long-term gain, without any reassurance of how this will pan out for his own political survival. It requires a leap of faith. But lots of people now have blind faith in what Narendra Modi says. This can be his Sudarshana Chakra, a weapon he idolises. Whatever he does, massive public support is assured. If he announces a major process to reform India’s foundational systems like the electoral and the criminal justice system, then the Indian State has a good chance to redeem itself. It might well turn out to be his lasting legacy.

Lt Gen Prakash Menon is Director, Strategic Studies Programme, Takshashila Institution, Bangalore and former Military Adviser, National Security Council Secretariat. Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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  1. the politician is the method by which the police make money. the judicial system is also a major part of this. Best come up with a solution to cleanse the politician and the judiciary

  2. Views expressed deserve applaud and need immediate attention of executives. Reforms in justice delivery system, policing and SOP to fix Interdepartmental responsibilities, power, authorities must urgently addressed if Modi wishes to fulfil aspirations of poor indians. These three lacunae if fixed by Modi, rule of law can be established in letter & spirit. And thereafter, nexus of political leaders, police, bureaucracy & underworld will be thing of past as reporting of crime will start at its origin. If any bureaucrat override area of others authority to pocket dividends arising out of his influenced decision, such acts will be reported instantly due to SOP/other authority/public and he won’t be able to hide behind police & justice delivery system. Independent police/bureaucracy/justice delivery system will raise faith in the system.

    For past many years, I’m advocating these reforms but whether Modi has capabilities to fight some 50000 powerful peoples (MP, MLA, Bureaucracy, senior police officers) irrespective of partylines to snatch powers from them and offer real freedom to indian masses is the moot question. Modi must prioritize his doable before enforcing these reforms, if he succeeds, he’ll be eulogized as Kalki of Kalyug. Commencement of Ramrajya won’t be a mirage if so happens.

  3. The best way to de-politicise the Police is to place them under the judiciary.
    Police recruitment should also be under the respective High Courts.
    All service matters should end with the DG police and Home Secretary working in a committee under a High Court judge.

  4. India is colonial legacy where wealth and power are concentrated in Colonial Commissars such as Judges, Bureaucrats, Police, their Political bosses and their cronies / purchasers – hirers at the expense of India’s starving millions. There is no way that those who have inherited the East India Company legacy, least of all the Politicians can be persuaded to give it up.

  5. I think first this Govr should do is change the police uniform of our country’ then go on with the police reform but I doubt that this will ever happen under Modi and Amit shah

  6. Yet another regional newspaper with regional tone. What is sudarshan chakra? Oh. that is well known in north India!! Yeah Right. These headline makers….sheesh.

  7. It’s quite unfortunate that even a healthy idea ,if floated,gets killed in the foetus itself,as a girl child. It’s good to debate on the point and not casting aspersions on Rank,or organization. Limitations are there,will be there,yet one has to maneuver, to come to a logical conclusion, keeping one’s professional and personal,ego and bias ,aside.

  8. height of expectations. impossible. too much to expect. wishful thinking. he will not do it.

  9. Too disgusted by the author’s cloying flattery of Modi . We need to forcibly remove all colonial mindset from the central services, and disband and decimate organisations like the IAS / IPS etc, maybe even the officer corps of the armed services, must be purged, if the cancer has gotten too deep. Then rebuilt them to serve a constitutional republic, for the people of this country, not an imperial power, which the central govt. feigns to do, as it does today. The rot has now set into the higher judiciary as well… The Army is now an institution of religious bigotry with appointment of a Hindu Fanatic as CDS. I fear the India , imperfect as it was, I grew up in may soon cease to exist.

  10. The author seems to be naive in his expectations of police reforms under the current PM.
    No political party in interested in this issue, least of all the current dispensation.

  11. Police Reforms is a long pending task that has been ignored by all the Central governments since 1970s. It was expected that Rajnath Singh would take this up but he did precious little in the first term of Modi government. Once Amit Shah took over as Home Minister, again there were hopes but he got too busy elsewhere (Art 370, CAA, NRC, state elections etc.). As a result, police reform are pending in the second term as well and we have no clue when they will be taken up. There is no dearth of ideas and reports of various experts and commissions on the required reforms.

    It is Modi alone who can take the political decision to reform police and implement it firmly. Hopefully, he can do it post 2024, if he is back with full majority again.

  12. Interesting combination of high-horse preaching and sycophancy. For an army officer to wax eloquent on policing is interesting, especially at a time when the army hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory, having lost large amounts of territory in Ladakh despite large sums being lavished on its ranks, thanks to “gross operational stupidity” of the army leadership. To say that “Modi can be India’s main hope” is about as abject a statement as I’ve seen from a uniformed officer.

  13. It is all day dreaming forgetting the dishonesty has taken deep roots in all walks of life. Poor nations can illafford to go this dangerous path. Ut we travelled a long distance away from right path

  14. This definitely is a Wishful Thinking. The situation at present indicates that The Powers of Constitutional Institutions including Police are kept in abyeance and at the Mercy of the Government. Power to the present clan has been secured Hard Way and are not fools to lose power.

  15. A very nice article. Yes only a mass leader like Modi who is worshipped by the majority of the citizens of this country can reform the police, judiciary, bureaucracy etc. As the author says for this to happen Modi must do away with the role of a politician and act like a statesman because no other leader since independence starting with Nehru has commanded the affection of the people like Modi has. Hope Modi raises to the occasion.

  16. Centre govt is busy only to win election in Bengal.none on this earth is born without short comings but Govt & his ministers & officers r afraid of telling truth to the top man it appears.people have lost jobs ,no business is running properly.
    After the loss of war 11 ,even salary was not paid but now only central govt officers r getting higher & higher salary & pension .cut down salary ,create new jobs with lesser salary .large persons will be benefitted

  17. This Print or any other media are always critical about Modi or BJP barring few. These people want all ills should be cleared or cleaned by Modi. What were these media houses were doing when Congress ruled this country for over 60 years?
    Of course, we legitimately expect this BJP and Modi Government should take revolutionary steps to alter long standing existing rots creeped in the system of governance. But this to happen media houses should be supportive and encourage the government to undertake drastic reforms, instead of criticizing the government and its leadership in every way for vested interests.

  18. A very timely article. But going by the Bengal elections our PM seems to have put his party duties above the State Duties.
    I wish Gen . Menon had added a line or two to say How not doing the reforms would harm Mr Modi’s own standing and legacy.

  19. Time for Modi to step up. No, he should step down. BJP is a good party but with the wrong prime minister. Wrong priority minister. Doesn’t know many things in economics and government.

  20. Time for Modi to step up. No, he should step down. BJP is a good party but with the wrong prime minister. Wrong priority minister. Doesn’t know many things in economics and government.

  21. Lol the Delhi Police (and other police forces in BJP-run states) are basically arms of the BJP. Don’t get your hopes up.

  22. The author is either plain naive or a closet ‘bhakt’. Modi-Shah have the worst record of abuse of the police system, protection to the criminal elements in police uniform , and victimisation of honest officers. Gujarat under Modi Shah and the Anil Deshmukh-Sachin Waze kind of stories are being enacted in different forms in all states across the country. Modi is the last person anyone can expect to set matters right in a system steeped in corruption,inefficiency and abuse of power, which are all integral to his and all politicians’ play to win power and consolidate it .

  23. To depoliticise Indian police courts must come down heavily on the individual policemen who convert the civil disputes on to criminal disputes.
    That is where the politicization takes place.
    Apply the same principle that does not matter if 10 likely disputes do not get converted to criminal cases but one genuine has to be saved.
    The corruption will also come down once the price tax disappears for conversions.

  24. It is the non-BJP states which oppose any kind of police reforms. Further the dishonest media keeps changing goalposts as per political contingency.

  25. Well, Judicial reforms and investments in increasing capacity of the judiciary must happen before Police reforms are unleashed and depoliticized. Capacity not only means lawyers and judges but it must include new physical infrastructure. Our courts are decrepit and crowded. Tribunals are to spread out from each other. Sessions courts can’t accommodate the headcount that is required for basic functions. Currently our judiciary takes to long to adjudicate cases, even simple ones involving basic violations of fundamental rights. Without appropriate capacity for the judiciary to handle and adjudicate cases in a smooth manner, any police reforms would only open the flood gates of tyranny on to the citizenry.

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