India’s police and the manufacturing of a storm

1st July 2020

1st July 2020

We don’t trust our police. Most would say they are brutal and corrupt.  There is nothing new here. You talk to your parents and grandma. It would be no different.

So when a father and son were allegedly beaten to death by cops in Tamil Nadu last week, the outrage was instant. It would’ve passed too if our newspapers hadn’t kept it in our face. Indian Express, for instance, is reserving its Front Page to the story for last five days. Be sure, it would be no different in coming days.

This jells with the present mood. None of us have forgotten Jamia and JNU. George Floyd and BlackLivesMatter are ongoing. Hong Kong is still on boil. Who knows, an immolation here, a custodial death there, shattered stores, burning buildings, graffiti and youths hoisted unsteadily on shoulders could transform it into something completely else. Anarchists, you see, have had enough of this “pause” induced by the Wuhan Virus pandemic. Tragedy in Tamil Nadu is the perfect “Wrecking Ball.”

Police would again make headlines. They would be told to uphold law yet not step on to the Liberty of citizens. It’s a delicate balance asked: Criminals after all don’t own up over a coffee. Batons alone are no answer to violent protests. Next stage is damning images in media. Police freezes; protests grow. Mobsters join the fun. Peaceful protests are now violent riots. Suddenly EU Parliament, UN Human Rights and US State of Department are interested. And you would forget it all began with the police.

Police is the face of democracy. This is the first line of its defence which anarchists target. There are enough funds in their coffers, and multiple evidence to suggest, that it works. All you need is your men in street protesting and a bought media to keep stoking the embers.

This media would bring you stories about a school teacher, math enthusiast, “sheros”, yoga fanatic, brave widow, grandma-on-wheelchair who are risking self so that democracy lives.  Months-old kids dead, who could only suckle, are “martyrs.” Volunteers, worthless otherwise, have front page pics. Running kitchens in sit-ins is always community-driven. Never mind, their newspaperwala hasn’t been paid for months.  Your media would never question their funds. Wad of millions, we must believe, have been gathered overnight by the unyielding spirit of India.  

This never fails. It didn’t fail in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen where rulers were forced to cede power and we the fools celebrated it as Arab Springs. Or in the “Maidan” coup in Ukraine. Or in countless Latin American countries. Or in Eastern Europe. Or in Africa. Anarchy, you see, pays. And a democracy is a sitting duck. More so when a society is as diverse, divided and politically infested as India is.  A largely young nation who bristle in their youthful innocence are just playthings in the palm of India-breakers.

Mature democracies know the peril. Thus, you have police in the United States which is quasi-military. They even have private police for informal action not subjected to judicial review. They have been treating anarchists as terrorists for over a century. French believe that society must get precedence over the individual in order to fence the democracy.  Judiciary acts likewise. Citizens are told the limits of Liberty.  Police have powers denied to citizens.

India is different. It has only 125 police officers for every lakh of citizens; one of the lowest police-people ratios in the world. Vacancies are not filled because states don’t have the money to spare salaries what to say of pensions. Police stations are in shambles. Do they have the men and money for tech crimes which work without boundaries or distance? Or to snoop without being accused of breaching the privacy?

There is little doubt police needs to mend itself. But it needs be done at a local level.  Turning it into a national outrage, with media as tool of anarchists, is handing India on a platter to its enemies. We all have to make a choice: Between individual and society. For the larger good, we need to empower and not weaken the government.

Modi government has never needed tougher laws more than now. It must not be afraid of being called “fascists” or “nazis.” We have enemies out there who want to Balkanize India. We need to empower and not weaken the police. On it hinges the fate of our democracy. As Abraham Lincoln famously said: A government must not be too strong or too weak for its people.

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