Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Who is to blame for loss of police morale in gujarat?

RB Sreekumar
People of Gujarat should ask themselves these questions when they go to vote. Who is responsible for the low reputation and morale of the Gujarat police? How is it that no encounters have taken place in the state after April 2007 when some blue-eyed boys of Gujarat police were arrested for their involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter?

Encounters had been taking place with a monotonous regularity between October 2002 and February 2007. In nearly all of them, alleged operatives of terrorist organisations were supposed to be on a mission to kill chief minister Narendra Modi and other top BJP leaders when they were gunned down by the police.

These encounters stopped all of a sudden after IPS officers DG Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian of the Gujarat police and IPS officer MN Dinesh of the Rajasthan police were arrested in April 2007 for their role in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. Later another IPS officer of Gujarat police, Abhay Chudasama, was also arrested in this case.

How come the well-organised terrorist organisations had stopped sending their operatives to attack targets in Gujarat after the arrest of the ‘encounter specialists’ mentioned above? Are these officers in jail a greater deterrent for terrorists than when they were on duty?

These fake encounters have their roots in the impunity granted to pliable officers during the communal riots of 2002. This impunity was followed by systematic subversion of the criminal justice system to delay and deny justice to victims of the riots.

Criticism by the media and the courts has had a debilitating effect on the morale of Gujarat police. The police are supposed to enforce law and order. But abuse of government authority over the police led to many police officers acting as enablers of riots and abetters of rioters in 2002.

Significantly, those who enforced the law could contain the riots in 16 out of 26 police districts and also in Surat and Rajkot police commisserionates. Unfortunately, most of these officers were victimised and ill-treated by the Modi government. This forced many of the best officers of Gujarat police to seek justice from the judiciary or go on Central deputation to escape harassment.

The Modi government’s favourites in the state police functioned as an informal mafia, enjoying extra-legal status with accessibility to political bosses bypassing hierarchy. The rules of the Gujarat police manual were inoperative when it came to members of this informal mafia.

Reluctance to act against law-breakers because they were close to those in power now extends beyond the police. Instances of spoiled brats indulging in rash and drunken driving, killing people in hit-and-run cases, and stealing computers, cars, etc just for fun are now common.

The police, however, continue to show a statistical projection of fall in crime through widespread non-registration of FIRs. This writer often has received phone calls from victims of chain-snatching gangs asking for help in getting their complaints registered.

The government’s claim that there have been no major riots in Gujarat after 2002 is absurd. Victims of the communal violence of 2002 have said that they had been cajoled and pressurised to withdraw their complaints against many offenders.

Consequently, nearly 90% of 2000-odd cases reinvestigated by the Gujarat police on the orders of the Supreme Court ended in acquittal of the offenders as witnesses turned hostile. Government support for victims’ resettlement was directly proportional to their willingness to compromise their cases in favour of the rioters.

In this context, the voters should judge the Modi government after asking themselves whether bribery, corruption and nepotism in administration have increased during Modi’s rule. A truthful answer to this question should be enough to tell them who to vote for on polling day.

(The author is a former DGP)

A truthful answer to this question will tell the voters who to vote for on polling day