Policemen get lynched by crowds while handling disturbances, killed by Naxals, run over by motorists while jumping signals or beaten up by people when flagged down for drunken driving or overspeeding. Rarely does civil society raise its voice when policemen are beaten up or killedby our own citizens.Asociety where policemen beat up its citizens cannot be called a civil society. A nation where uniformed policemen are beaten or lynched by itsown peoplecannotbecalled a civilized nation either.
Condemning police has become the order of the day. While no one can justify the high-handedness of police or deny the need to deal with this with a heavy hand, merely condemning is not going to make things better. We have to address the genesis of the problem rather than cursethe symptoms.
Police work under tremendous constraints and limitations. Society expects police to deliver more and more with less and less resources and legitimate authority. No doubt, the mindset of police needs to change but so does that of society. The plight of average policeman may be pathetic but they will always be perceived as the coercive arm of government which either uses excessive force against agitators or is blamed for being inactive while dealing with disturbances. If they take preventive action, it’s seen as interference with civil rights. If they don’t, it’s seen as dereliction of duty.
Even when the discussions are about public apathy towards helping an accident or rape victim, the blame is deflected to police. Like a compass that always points north, our society has a flair for putting every blame on police. The fear of harassment is rather overstated. Without disputing the existence of such harassment, when the situation demands, citizens have to rise to the occasion. They have to intervene and take a victim to hospital, irrespective of police harassment that may follow.They must,however, agitate and raise their voice against such harassment. There are a hundred people put to inconvenience but millions take shelter behind such excuses and abdicate their duty.
Strangely, we try to solve complex issues through tweets, likes, signatures, petitions, candlelight marches and SMSes. These are the easiest ways to create the right noises but symbolism alone can’t changethesituation.Unfortunately, allthesesentiments aretargeted at others and absolve oneself of responsibility. Blaming everything on police is a convenient alibi. Society should also accept its flaws and introspect.
Without active public participation, the task of police becomes even more difficult. Police needs massive reforms, capacity building, sensitization, legitimate empowerment, improvement in working conditions and facilities. But, it also needs support, understanding and empathy of civil society.
(The writer is Addl DGP, Police Computer Wing, Karnataka. The views expressed are personal)
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