The recent custodial death of the father-son duo in Tamil Nadu, which is likely to have been caused due to police excesses, has once again brought forth the issue of police atrocity in India. 

The judicial magistrate conducting the probe faced non-cooperation and suppression of facts by the senior cops, which eventually led to the CID to take over the case as long as the CBI doesn’t come into the picture.

The two persons had reportedly kept their mobile shop open 15 minutes beyond the lockdown permissible schedule and this led to the fiasco. It was only a lady cop who came forward testified to the beating and torturing of the accused by the police at the police station which took the lid off the case and subsequently several cops were booked and arrested for their misdemeanor.  The incident has sparked a national outrage.

Notwithstanding the fact that Tamil Nadu police are historically known for brutality, high-handedness, third degree torture and disregard for the law, police atrocity in general is a widespread reality in India. Custodial deaths are not uncommon, and the facts are often suppressed or the probes botched to save the police. Most lower rung cops are apparently law unto themselves. The common man fears the police and avoids registering complaints for fear of undue harassment. The image of the police in Indian society is of a fearful dictator who can do anything he wants. Incidents like the Tamil Nadu deaths further strengthen this belief.

There are reasons for this audacity. The police are mostly stooges of their political masters and have little independence to act with honesty. The rules differ for the commoner from those of VIPs and the police have continually to tweak and adjust their working to the satisfaction of the political leaders. If the masters are miffed, the cops are transferred randomly or their promotions delayed. No one wants to hazard that risk. Apart from this drawback, the police have long working hours in unhealthy conditions. This leaves them mentally jaded and physically exhausted. Shortage of police staffers leads to scarcity of leaves and holidays. Such an animalistic lifestyle deprives them of the humane angle and hence their actions are often impulsive and expression of inherent frustration. Few of the lower level officials of the police get the right kind of recreation space and family time which could nourish their humanity. They have little psychological guidance in any formulated or regular pattern which can equip them better to handle their stressful daily chore.

There is a great rift between the police and the citizenry in India, which is drastically different from the police in the developed countries of the west. The first task is to set a strong channel of communication between civilians and the police to understand each others’ problems and strengths and chalk out ways in which both the parties can work in collaboration for the betterment of society. Wielding the baton without discretion is detrimental to the health of society.

The need is greater understanding, unity and honesty. The police must be freed from the clutches of whimsical leaders and allowed to work with some independence and honesty, without fear and favour. This is a precondition for justice. The long pending police reforms have to be introduced quickly to improve the police setup. We have an obsolete pattern of feudal governance which has to be done away with. The police must not be a social nuisance and impediment but a problem solver who people can freely go to and happily return with solutions. An abrasive, irascible and imbecile police is the last thing we want in our peace loving society. It simply undermines democratic values of citizens of a free and progressive nation.

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