‘Politicians, lay your hands off the police, allow them to function’: AA Khan; IPS

Aftab Khan


Mumbai and its citizens are again in turmoil. Predictably, outpouring of public ire is filling newspapers, clogging television channels and spilling on to the streets in the form of protests by women’s organisations.
Unfortunately our indignation over the government apathy against the police incompetence and the legal impotence of the system will remain shortlived, a kneejerk reaction as in the past, be it in Mumbai, Delhi, Jharkhand or elsewhere, and then back to bovine acceptance of our corrupted system.
We may well beat our breasts, hold torchlight processions and demonstrations of outrage over the police’s indifference towards the plight of women to the corrupt meddling of politicians, which has caused the pathetic deterioration in the efficacy of what was once arguably one of the finest police forces in the world.
Not too far back, less than two decades ago, even terrorists and members of the underworld cowered at the sight of at least some of the officers of the Mumbai police and spent sleepless moments when summoned to the police station. 
Now we have come to a stage where even lesser criminals, petty hoodlums, small drug pushers and the political riff-raff, not only look at the police with contempt but do not hesitate to use force against men in khaki. 
A complete breakdown in our criminal judicial system contributed in equal parts by meddlesome politicians of doubtful criminal background as also by senior level police officers, who bow and scrape before their political masters.
Defenseless women and helpless citizens are ground to dust beneath the boots of political and criminal despots, unhampered, if not actively aided, by an insipid police, manned by political appointees more interested in furthering economical well-being rather than maintaining public order and protecting the weaker sections of society.
A political system, which allows its elected legislators to brutally kick and claw at a police officer in the precincts of the state assembly. A system where police postings are bargained and brokered has dragged the police force to such depths of infamy that a woman who drags a would-be assaulter to the police station is made to feel like a criminal, a woman molested by roadside hoodlums is made to feel that she is of dubious virtue. A system where the police is focussed on finding sources and avenues of income and excuses for not functioning as it is meant to be.
I feel ashamed and degraded. I feel indignant about the police force, of which I was a proud member for over three decades, that has now sunk to such levels of infamy. There is not a single branch of the Mumbai police or for that matter any of the police forces in Maharashtra, which is not corrupted and tainted by the interference of the criminally corrupt politicians and the indifferent attitude of the superior officers. 
We used to talk proudly of our magnificent Mumbai traffic branch, which stood as an example to the other Forces in the country. And that very traffic branch is now busy finding ways to augment its income. When I first came to Mumbai, we were told that the primary aim of the traffic police was traffic control and management. Unfortunately, not so anymore.
Now, traffic policemen lurk a distance away from the intersections waiting to pounce on motorists, who break the law, for a petty penny. I have pointed this out to officers of the traffic branch that no policemen can be seen where there is utter chaos or there is a jam; but they are available in clusters where there is scope for gain.
Lest I be accused of being unduly harsh on only the police, let me make amends that other government departments such as the BMC, the MMRDA, the public health are more disgustingly perverse than the police.
But I feel strongly about the deterioration in the standard of the once magnificent men in khaki because at heart I still belong to that fraternity. More important, it is the only force that can protect the common man, the helpless man on the street.
The police force is adequate, the laws sufficiently effective; but it is only the enforcement that is lacking, hampered by political interference and the obsession with the non-policing duties that has rendered the force ineffective. The policemen, the patrolling vehicles and the communication system — meant for protecting the common man and for patrolling the mean streets of the lesser desirable parts of the city — are not concentrated in the trouble spots as they were earlier, but in VIP entourages and ministerial mansions. 
I had pointed out, not many years ago, that a horde of policemen with flashing beacons and screaming sirens escort not only the self-important and pompous chief minister, the home minister but also every other person whose ego needs to be publicly fuelled. An inept, inarticulate CM and a bungling officious HM who is perversely obsessed with bar girls than the larger problems troubling women. Even small-time politicians against whom criminal cases are pending, go around with armed policemen who are high-handed and arrogant in dealing with the common man.
But all levels of incredulity were stretched to the maximum when I came across a beer bar owner going around in a flashy Mercedes, obviously a product of his ill-gotten gain, escorted by four very supercilious looking policemen who cleared the public out of his way.
Enough of ranting and raving of a frustrated soul for one day. Let me get down to brass tacks and offer my humble opinion how to start setting things right.
The dignity of women-kind, the equal if not predominant role in the society needs to be emphasized time and again and the mindset of the lower strata of the society that a woman being a lesser being can be treated with lustful contempt has to be strongly negated.
Even politicians who have justified criminal outrage on the person of women by finding excuses in unsuitable dresses and attire need to be treated in the same way as sexual offenders. Emphatically it should be drilled in the male minds that a woman has the right to dress as she deems fit, to move and act as she desires and hold her head high in society which is fostered and nourished by womenkind.
Merely adding a few lines in school curriculum will not suffice as most sex fiends are school dropouts. It has to be dinned in their heads with force and for that we perhaps require a few more Dhobles, albeit a trifle more civilised version, to beat into the dim heads the importance and dignity of women.
It is equally important to allow senior police officers to manage the force. Recently, we’ve had an instance of one of the few upright officers, the DG of the state, confronting the powerful politicians on the issues of transfers and postings of subordinate staff, which was encroached upon by an interfering home minister and his acolytes in the bureaucracy.
Let the earlier system prevail where the subordinate police staff was accountable only to his seniors and a rigid system of discipline prevailed. A system where infractions by erring policemen were dealt with promptly and severely by departmental action. In such a system, which had flourished in my time, a Deshmukh who refused to assist a lady who dragged a potential assaulter to the RPF Station or a senior inspector and a beat officer who are unaware of the criminal dominance in the Shakti Mills premises would have been suspended and dismissed as a deterrent to other officers.
Let us organise seminars of interaction between the common citizens of the city with the officers and promote better understanding and sympathy for each other. Let me be fair and say it’s not only the policeman who’s to blame for the wide chasm, which now separates the police and the public. It is also the antagonistic attitude of some members of the public of the men in Khaki which accounts for this friction.
Let us introduce the old system of beat policing where the officer and the staff of a particular beat knew most of the people living in his area and had excellent rapport with them, which facilitated flow of information from the people to the police — something that is essential to control crime.
Without being immodest, let me tell you that when I was in charge of North Mumbai I had a rapport with the people, particularly those from the weaker sections, which enabled me and others to tackle hoodlums and bullies and prevent atrocities such as the ones we are now witnessing. True, we were accused of adopting extra legal and highhanded methods in dealing with criminals, but we did instil the fear of law in the rabble, which is now missing.
My advice to the politicians is: lay your hands off the police force and allow them to function effectively; and to the police: be proud of your uniform and be aware of the social responsibilities towards the people of this still magnificent city.

Published Date:  Aug 28, 2013: DNA

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