Sadaf Jafar’s Ordeal Seems to Be Over, Muslim Insecurity in Democratic India Persists


Sadaf Jafar in front of her photo in a banner of riots accused by UP govt. — Photo courtesy: OpIndia


Humra Quraishi

HAPPY to see the name of Sadaf Jafar in the list of candidates for the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh!

No, I don’t know the Lucknow-based activist. 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 her.

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 sensitise 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, but it does if the democracy is itself going through a crisis phase. If fascist forces are making marked and targeted intrusions into 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 on  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 per cent 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 and 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% there of on 15 August. The Hindu officers and men in the N.W.E.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  decisive  level on the ground, were  not intervening  effectively  as they were  keen  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  in 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 his 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.


Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The views expressed here are author’s personal.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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