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Mainstream, VOL LX No 6, New Delhi, January 29, 2022

Citizens Safety and Security Forces in our Democracy | Humra Quraishi

Friday 28 January 2022, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS - 26 January 2022

Happy To See The Name of Sadaf Jafar In The List of Candidates For The Upcoming Elections

No, I don’t know the Lucknow-based activist Sadaf Jafar. Never met her. Nor spoken to her. But can’t erase this backgrounder to her: Exactly two years back, when the anti- CAA protests were peaking, she was not just harassed and humiliated by the cops in Uttar Pradesh but even physically tortured. In her statement she had detailed how a particular male police officer in Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station, kicked and punched her in the abdomen and kept on doing so, till she started bleeding…blood soaking the clothes on her, blood trickling down.

Well, I just hope she fights in these upcoming elections and wins, and with that see to it that some semblance of safety and dignity prevails for those detained and held ‘captive’ by those manning the very system.

In the television interviews, Sadaf comes across as strong and strong-willed, and that perhaps explains she somehow survived but a large percentage of those hounded by the State police force find it very difficult to even remain alive.

This brings me to focus on the very crux: what mechanism is on, to sensitize the police force, so that the hapless can walk up to the cops and be certain that he or she would stand protected and secure?

And though in a democracy the composition of the Police and Paramilitary should not matter, it does if the democracy is itself going through a crisis phase. If fascist forces are making marked and targeted intrusions into the everyday life of the citizen, then the very focus does dwell on the State machinery.

And in such a dismal scenario the Indian Muslim’s insecurity is bound to get compounded by the low to the very low representation of the Muslims in the police force and in the paramilitary, and also in the Agencies.

In fact, during the course of an interview, academic author, Omar Khalidi, had told me in January 2010, (months before his death), "Most of the Intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces in India do not mirror the diversity of the national population. Since Muslims are not well represented in the IPS, there is every justification for reservation for them. Also, there ought to be widespread coaching for those from the minority community to compete successfully in the UPSC examination.” Khalidi also detailed that the decision of keeping Muslims out of the police force wasn’t a recent one but taken years back. To quote him on this, "When on the recommendation of the National Integration Council (NIC ) in 1969, the Home Minister Y.B. Chavan merely broached the idea of recruiting Muslims in the police force, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the precursor of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) opposed it as ’an invitation to disaster’.”

And as the interview progressed, Khalidi, who was then attached to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and had been writing extensively on the Muslims in Independent India, focused on the fact that Muslims were far better represented during the colonial rule. He detailed, “Minorities were better represented in the colonial army and police than today… Intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces in India do not mirror the diversity of the national population … Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force is composed primarily of Gurkhas, both foreign Nepalis and domiciled. And though Assam is nearly 30 percent Muslims, few Muslims are found in the Assam Rifles.”

Khalidi focused on the low percentage of Muslims in the police force of the country. He also drew contrasts between the police composition in colonial India and the changes that were made to come about after Independence. "The division of British India in mid-1947 and the abolition of the Princely States heralded major changes in the composition, though not in the organization of the Police. On 30 June 1947, the Indian Police consisted of 516 officers, including 323 Europeans, 63 Muslims 130 Hindus and others. The overwhelming majority of the British officers opted for retirement and compensation for loss of career and practically all the Muslim officers opted for Pakistan. The police officers of Punjab and Bengal were to be divided on communal lines. The Punjab Police had a total strength of 35,457 at the beginning of 1947. East Punjab was left with only 30% thereof on 15 August. The Hindu officers and men in the N.W.F.P and in the Sind Police were allowed to migrate to India. In the remaining provinces, a large number of Muslims from the ranks of the Dy.S P (Deputy Superintendent of Police) to constable were likewise allowed to migrate to Pakistan. This resulted in a serious depletion of the police in all northern princely states of India, and to a lesser extent in Bombay, Madras, CP, and Orissa."

Commenting on the ethnic and religious composition of the security forces in India, he detailed, “There is a clear and consistent pattern of recruitment in the army. The army’s infantry regiments are still recruited in states and areas with ‘martial races’, i.e. in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and western UP. These so-called “martial races” are Hindu, Sikh and Gorkha. There are very few Muslims among the jawans and still fewer among the officers. Officers are fewer partly because Muslims’ educational level, and thus the ability to compete in the UPSC examination, is poor. Dalits are also conspicuous by their absence. Christians are well represented in the officer class. The Rapid Action Force of the CRPF has a good representation of Muslims. The composition of police is also somewhat similar. There are far fewer Muslim police officers and within that a tiny number of IPS officers.”

*****

It also gets significant to mention that R.B. Sreekumar’s book ‘Gujarat Behind the Curtain’ (Pharos Media) carries several behind-the-curtain scenes; relaying the dark realities to the very ‘use’ or ‘functioning’ of the state machinery.

To quote from the book, “On 28 June 2002, after a review meeting regarding the Ahmedabad Rath Yatra, the chief secretary suggested to me that in case someone was trying to disturb the Rath Yatra or planning to spoil it, those people should be eliminated if necessary.”

Another ‘behind the curtain’ scene: “In the afternoon (of 28 February 2002) I met DGP K. Chakravorti in his chamber. I found him to be quite perturbed, helpless, and stress-ridden about widespread mass violence in the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, and many rural areas. He lamented that things were taking a bad shape and activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP were leading armed crowds and police officers, at the decisive level on the ground, were not intervening effectively as they were keen on avoiding crossing swords with supporters of the ruling party. He hinted that the chief minister had convened a meeting of senior officers at his residence after his return from Godhra on the evening of 27 February 2002. The DGP said that the CM told officers in the meeting that ‘ in communal riots police normally takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one-to-one proportion, this will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger.’ ”

*****

With Spring Around, As The Season Of Love Unfolds …I can only read aloud this verse from the rebel poet of the Awadhi belt, Israr-ul-Haq Majaz. He died young and that too decades back, but not before writing verse after verse, romantic as well as revolutionary, on the situation around.

Holding out to this day is this verse titled Awara:

Night has fallen in the city, and I, unhappy and defeated
Roam, a vagabond on dazzling, awake streets
It is not my neighbourhood, how long can I loiter thus?
Anguished heart, desperate heart, what should I do...
To stop and rest on the way is not my habit
To admit defeat and return is not my nature
But to find a companion, alas, is not my fate...

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