By now it is clear that the police response to the anti-CAA protests is determined by the political powers they report to. In fact, take any instance of political violence and the police response is dependent on the attitude of the home minister. States where the police report to BJP governments has seen brutal crackdowns on protesters – Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Delhi being cases in point. States where non-BJP parties are in power, police has displayed enormous latitude to protesters. The violence has garnered international attention forcing BJP to claim a conspiracy to foment violence only in BJP ruled states.
In JNU, police are yet to arrest any of the goons who entered the campus on the evening of January 5 to wreak violence on unsuspecting students and teachers. Yesterday, at Jamia Millia Islamia, a 17-year-old casually slipped past a hundred or so onlookers dressed in khakhi, who happened to be police officers, waved a gun at protesting university students, shot at one of them, ranted about their demand for azadi, and then casually returned the way he came, from amongst the amused cops. With records indicating he is a juvenile, it remains to be seen if he will be treated as an adult under the amended juvenile justice law.
The situation is no better in other states. In Bengal, the police favour the ruling TMC and in Kerala, families of three Congress workers killed by CPM goons allege that the leaders who masterminded the murders weren’t nabbed. In Karnataka, police made a mockery of the sedition law by taking exception to an anti-CAA play, booking a teacher and the mother of a child acting in it. In Andhra Pradesh, the police, until recently accused of doing Chandrababu Naidu’s bidding is now accused of being a pawn in the hands of Jagan Reddy.
In social media, the reputation of the police is taking a beating over its partisan handling of recent issues. In 2006, Supreme Court mooted police reforms to free the police from the clutches of their political masters. 14 years later that is yet to happen anywhere in India. The only argument possible for political stewardship of police is that elected representatives can effectively intercede for people against a force with colonial hangovers. Ironically, the colonial hangover manifests often as police unable to do justice because it is inconvenient for the ruling party. Conversely, there is no end in sight to custodial torture either, the other hallmark of the colonial-era police.
Equally damning is the step-sonly treatment meted out to police by their masters. Poor service conditions in terms of long work hours, irregular off days and understaffing can dehumanize even the best of humankind. And that is unfortunately happening to cops. Neither have initiatives to prove investigation skills or maintaining law and order come from the political class. There are few arguments to continue with the present system. Perhaps, held back by the judicial activism/overreach tag, Supreme Court hasn’t attempted to enforce its own judgment. But the denial of justice to ordinary citizens as a result of the present arrangement is cause enough for Supreme Court to once again intervene.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.