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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Police brutality: Truth of an encounter in Manipur

In all 'encounters', the version is almost same:

The police cornered the person and asked him to stop, but he didn't and instead fired at police. While no jawan got injured, the person died in the exchange of fire.
Chongkham Sanjit, 27, was killed near Assembly in Imphal, and that was the version of the police commandos of Rapid Action Force until a lensman, who had shot the entire sequence of events, exposed the lies.

Initially, News weekly Tehelka published these photographs. Such encounters are common in North East, though they always don't make news, as they can't be contradicted and the citizens don't resent as long as the person killed is not 'related to us' or unless they can 'relate to him'.

The magazine tells us that Salam Ajit Singh, Okram Ranjit Singh, Taslimuddin, Laishram Dipson and Ningthoujam Anand were also killed in similar encounters. One of them was a mason, the other was lorry driver, another a labourer and one of them was a rickshaw driver.

Naturally, their kin can't be in a position to fight. The question is that why cops do it? There are numerous reasons ranging from personal rivalries, need to 'show' work by eliminating 'goons', the desire for rewards and gallantry medals, instilling sense of fear among others for easy 'earning' (extortions) and often just the urge to do it because they have tasted blood.

Less than a month ago, Ranbir Singh, an MBA student, was killed in an encounter in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. A probe was ordered after much hue and cry though the news channels had initially accepted the police version and termed him a militant. Had he been Shabbir instead of Ranbir, there wouldn't have been an inquiry either. In that case, the degree would not have come to his help, as stories like 'techies taking to terrorism' would have been planted intelligently.

We have one of the most inefficient, most corrupt and most brutal police force. The police force can't change. It can't become sensitive because it is governed by the same law and code that were devised in 1861 by the British to govern the 'natives'. There are castes, tribes and communities who were called 'criminal tribes' before independence and though they were de-notified, the police still treat the tribes like Pardhis as criminal. Children born in these housholds are seen as suspects from the day of their birth.

And our polity & bureaucracy have failed to form a new police act. When recruits get into force, within months they understand that they are not in the force to solve cases of thefts or murders and keep the area's lawlessness under check, but they have to 'manage', 'sort out' things, keep working relations with gangsters and gamblers so that they keep paying 'hafta', keep musclemen in good humour and ensure that everybody who matters among the political class and well-to-do remain happy.

If an offender wants to mend ways, he can't. Even if he is living a peaceful life, he would be arrested and interrogated every time for each incident of major crime, despite knowing that he is not involved in the crime. That happens because that's how the 'system' works. It doesn't treat poor [those who don't have connections] Indian citizens fairly. Justice is not delivered unless you are well connected.

State governments belonging refuse to act on this issue. Every time the Supreme Court asks them about the model police code and the implementation of the recommendations for change. Politicians don't want a change. Bureaucracy doesn't want police to get out of its hand.

The police remain an anti-people brute force in this country. It is not to serve the citizens as jan-sewaks but to serve the masters, who were Whites in the past, and have been replaced by the top brass that includes civil servants, filthy rich and well-connected. It has a licence to exploit and harass others.