Beware of cops!

When seven of the Kovai bombers landed in the Chennai Central station after their arrest in distant Rajahmundry, the sharp end of a policeman’s rifle happened to graze the skin of one of the prisoners as he was alighting from the train. Immediately there was a hue and cry as the seven prisoners raised a din over this ‘major police atrocity’ and the escorts reportedly had a real tough time cajoling their guests.

Guests, indeed, they are for the bombers of Kovai, who perpetrated one of the most dastardly carnages in recent times, were quite aware of their rights and importance too, and armed with such knowledge they leave no stone unturned to ensure that they are safeguarded.

The leader of the gang, a hardcore ‘secularist’ of an explosive variety was even audacious enough to demand a jail of his choosing, refusing to be shifted from Chennai to Vellore. The police too seem to be quite well informed about the high standing of these accused, for there is no complaint so far from any of the dime-a-dozen secularists that these accused were man-handled or beaten up. Quite humane, on the part of the cops.

Of course, we are not suggesting that these ideologically ingrained mercenaries, who have been held for killing over sixty, maiming scores of others and even trying to assassinate a national leader who subsequently became the Home Minister, should be subjected to the usual police ‘treatment’.

But the fact remains that despite the magnitude of the alleged crimes of these men, they have indeed been treated quite well, a courtesy which these beneficiaries usually reciprocate in the form of bombs and gunfire. But it is very strange and even ironical that the very same policemen who are so kind to even such hardened ‘criminals’ however lose their cool and their human mask, sorry, face too when it comes to dealing with those accused of petty crimes.

The contrast strikes one in the face whenever one hears of lock up deaths, rapes and torture inside the four walls of the police station which have become mystery dens as those who enter as accused invariably return as bodies or at least, badly mauled up pulp. One is inclined to take a peep at the nature of the victims and one is sure to infer that it is the lowly daridra narayanas who are most at the receiving end of the policemen’s wrath.

Obviously, the cops who are ever itching to wield their lathi and test their animal strengths use the hapless creatures as punching bags for practice. Perhaps, it is an unwritten rule in the police that bigger the crime better the treatment. White collar criminals and habitual bombers stalk the police stations as if they own the place while the petty thief, whose only mistake was to have born poor, besides getting caught, is hung from the roof, upside down and his insides dug out, while spouses, if any, are fed to the lecherous paws and jaws of the wolfish cops. The small fry get the worst of the iron fist, while the velvet gloves are reserved for handling VIP criminals, whose offences would be greater in magnitude and impact.

But the policemen are quite alert when it comes to saving their own skin. The criminal instincts and an insider’s alacrity take over as they deftly dodge the law which they are duty bound to protect. It is only when they rape (as defined by law) a hapless woman inside the precincts of the station that they are guilty of a crime, legally.

So, they just take a leaf out of Clinton’s book of sleaze, ensuring that they remain above board technically while at the same time giving vent to their lust. They just stop short of raping their victim. Post mortem reports would tell no tales about their misdemeanour, while they themselves would remain immune to law or utmost invite a suspension, for a few days, which for them is nothing but an extended sabbatical as they are quite free even while on duty. Their offence? Violating a simple rule while in reality they had violated all norms of human behaviour besides a women’s modesty.

Gone are the days when the very mention of police generated an aura of respectability and instilled a sense of fear among the people. Of course, the people still do fear the police though for different reasons. There was also a time when the cops, with their overflowing paunches and gaudy attire were objects of ridicule, but even that has changed with policemen now turning into symbols of terror and injustice.

They are no longer custodians of your safety and well-being, rather one increasingly feels the need for protection from them, if the incidents of rape and torture on the part of the police themselves are any indication. These protectors of the people in this Kaliyug are by no means a virtuous lot, with whom one can trust one’s life, property and even chastity. Perhaps there is something about their very chemistry that makes them susceptible to the viles that are commonly and theoretically only associated with those whom they are supposed to fight.

Instead of catching criminals, the cops of late seem to be more inclined in catching up with them in criminality. Criminalisation of police is happening at an alarming pace, even while police conferences and seminars lament over the lack of funds for modernisation and improving the investigative apparatus. They even wax eloquent about the necessity for a human face, while all along it is only the ugly, inhuman police psyche which is on parade, day in and day out.

All talk of equipping the police better is sheer rubbish unless the basic quality of policemen, the human material, is improved, which at present sights looks a far cry. Most enter the police force only as a last resort or to make money, probably to make good the cost they incurred to get in. Then it becomes a habit.

With the vocation itself offering little attraction to those who really want to serve the people, it is invariably only the unemployable and the unscrupulous who settle in the force, not to speak of the political and caste-based appointees. Little wonder that such men, who are bereft of any skill, exhibit their depravity and animal instincts only on the innocents who are defenceless. How many of these macho cops would dare to walk into the jungles to nab Veerappan, instead of pulling sarees off helpless women, that too in front of their manacled husbands?

Why does police bravery deserve special recognition when courage is an essential pre-requisite for the very entry into the force? The reality simply is that genuine bravery and uprightness in the police force are at a premium, indeed a luxury and need special incentives to be fished out, a sort of official mamool.

Prudence, no doubt, dictates that I enter a statutory precaution clause here that should read that not all policemen are rogues and that there are some genuine hounds who are truly engaged in the pursuit of criminals. But it is imprudence that seems warranted as it is well nigh impossible to sift the wheat from the chaff, which is what abounds in the police. And the few straight ones are also guilty of meek acquiescence to the brutal majority who have their way. It has now become a case of all cops being bad, unless proved good!

What was once prided as the Scotland Yard of India has slowly and surely turned into crime mongers’ backyard.

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Jawahar T R