Three state police chiefs flag trust-deficit among Muslims, urge Indian government to take measures to change image of police
By Smita Nair
MUMBAI — In what is perhaps the first admission of its kind, the police have concluded that there is a trust deficit among Muslims, who see them as “communal, biased and insensitive…. ill-informed, corrupt and lacking professionalism”.
A report, “Strategy for making police forces more sensitive towards minority sections”, prepared by three DGPs — Sanjeev Dayal of Maharashtra, Deoraj Nagar of Uttar Pradesh and K Ramanujam of Tamil Nadu — along with an Intelligence Bureau representative, says that the distrust comes from poor representation of minorities in the forces and the conduct of some policemen during riots.
“Poor representation of the minorities in the police forces has contributed to this distrust and suspicion. It has to be admitted that the conduct of some members of the police forces in various states during communal riots had only served to strengthen and heighten these suspicions and distrust in the minority communities,” it says.
Saying that Muslims form the largest minority, constituting “a vocal and large section of the population” in most states, the report calls for urgent correction of the perception in the community about the police as it “impinges on the communal situation of the country and thus its internal security”.
Presented at the 2013 DGs’ conference in New Delhi, the report is currently with the Central government, awaiting action. It is primarily aimed at providing the framework for a Standard Operating Procedure to prevent communal riots.
It also wants a Community Policing Plan by all states, which should be internalised and become a SOP.
The report recommends training as an important part in bringing “attitudinal changes in the police at all ranks”. Recommending several steps, including outreach programmes and forming specialised wings to combat rumours and instigation through social media, it says the first move should be to break the bias within.
“As a first step it is very necessary for the police leadership to admit that the problem exists and acknowledge that there is a need for correction within us,” it says. “We cannot afford to lose time in correcting the perception as the present perception is adversely affecting several vital aspects of policing, including combating terror, and thus maintaining the internal security of the country.”
Along with the corrective measures in training and policing, the report suggests setting two important wings across all the states. It recommends creation of a specialised cyber wing, just to track rumours and misuse of social media to “instigate communal emotions”. The wing, the report says, should be under the \government’s cyber security arm CERT, with state police forces taking decisions on training and its working.
Another wing, which the group recommends, is a professional public relations unit to deal with dissemination of information about sensitive law and order issues.
The report through various episodes outlines the need to develop an early warning system, which will look into communal tension, and also pick on communal elements. Calling for a non-discriminatory SOP to handle communal riots, the report specifically says “only trusted and tested police officers, who have earned the trust of the community, should be placed in communally sensitive places”.
Along with SOP is a comprehensive monitoring system, through which “rabid elements” in all religions are constantly monitored, and their speeches and agitation videographed and recorded. The report also suggests the need for a “legal machinery” to prevent the movement and visits of such elements to communally charged places. The police currently only have the Indian Penal Code to stop people from unlawful assembly, which officials feel is insufficient.
The report also suggests special laws to check activities of fundamentalist groups. “Tamil Nadu has enacted amendments to its law to ban drills with or without arms particularly when wearing uniform or dress which can create confusion that such groups are members of police or paramilitary or armed forces of the Union,” the report says.
It also calls for each state government to look for mechanisms to check on funding by religious groups which can be misused, and also create special courts to look at communal riots.