Posted on: January 6, 2013

The images are as stark as they are real. The burly man in khaki comes tearing at the protestors aiming his stout cane at their heads. The men in blue pocket a wad of notes from a truck driver. The bored man sitting with his cronies in his office spits out betel juice to say that a complaint cannot be registered. And the drunk, pot-bellied man pushes a woman to the floor as he weighs down on her.

From Chennai to Calcutta, Delhi to Mumbai and Imphal to Srinagar, these are images that spring up the moment you mention the word police. Arguably, the most hated section of society is not the politician, but the policeman in India. The lathi charge on protestors in Delhi’s India Gate – who had gathered on December — to voice their concerns about the safety of women after the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old Delhi woman only reinforced the general belief that the police force across the country was there not to safeguard the people, but to harass them.

To be sure, there are any number of honest, efficient and considerate men and women in the force. But the number of people who are at best uncaring, and at their worst brutal or murderous, is so overwhelmingly large that the police continue to instills fear among the people. “The police are an essential force but unfortunately not popular,” admits former additional commissioner of Delhi police, Gautam Kaul.

And that is putting it mildly. “They don’t discharge their duties correctly, they are rude and abusive to people and they intimidate people instead of helping them – these are some of the most common complaints against the police” adds Prakash Singh, former director general of police, Uttar Pradesh.

A victim of rape in east Delhi recalls how traumatic it was for her to lodge a complaint with the police. “First, the police were not ready to believe that I had been raped as the rapist was known to me. They insisted that it was consensual sex. Then they started questioning me instead of nabbing the culprit. Finally, I had to take the help of a local group to get my case registered,” she says.

Unfortunately, despite talks of reforms, the image of the police – who are under the jurisdiction of respective state governments, except in Delhi, where they come under the ministry of home affairs — has not improved over the years. A study conducted by the Bureau of Police Research and Development said so over three decades ago. “The image of the police in the minds of the public is not good. As a result, the police fail to secure the cooperation of public in its fight against crime and disorder,” it said in 1979.

Police action – or inaction – can have grave repercussions. Recently, a minor girl in Patiala committed suicide a month after she was allegedly gang raped. Her family said the police did not act on their complaint against the accused, who were from the same village.

There are also numerous occasions when the police themselves turn into perpetrators. In Mumbai, a constable called Sunil Atmaram allegedly raped a 17-year old girl in 2005 inside a police station. The constable was drunk and had hauled the teenager to the police station with her boyfriend when he found the two together at the Marine Drive promenade. He sent the boyfriend out after threatening him, and then raped the girl.

Members of the police are accused of a host of crimes – from bribery and intimidation to rape and murder. Fake encounter killings are common in troubled areas. The fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat in 2005 created such a nationwide furore that the Supreme Court ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the case.

The situation is similar across the country– though the intensities vary. According to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) data, Uttar Pradesh has the dubious distinction of the state with the highest number of fake encounter killings. In 2010-11, it received complaints that 40 people were killed by security forces in UP in such encounters. According to the NHRC, some 191 fake encounter killings took place in the country in the last five years. Supreme Court, on Friday, had set up a three-member commission to investigate cases of fake encounter killings in Manipur.A petition in the court had alleged more than 1,500 fake encounters took place in Manipur in the last three decades.

Incidents of police firing on citizens are not rare either. In September last year, the police opened fire against demonstrators protesting the opening of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu and killed one fisherman. In June last year, four villagers in Bihar’s Forbesganj died in police firing. Last month, a journalist in Imphal was killed in police firing while he was covering a protest against the molestation of a local actress by a militant. In Kashmir, 91 civilians were killed in police firing in 2010.

Some argue that the police conduct these acts with impunity because of political patronage. In September 2011, five Dalits were killed when the police fired at Dalit agitators who had put up a blockade at Paramakudi in Tamil Nadu. Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had defended the police, saying that they had fired in self-defence and to protect public property.

Some argue the police conduct these acts with impunity because of political patronage. “The public is seen as threat to the State (government) by the police as they are trained to be the protectors of the State and not its people. In any other democratic nation, the public is dealt with professionally,” says sociologist Nandini Sundar, who recalled how she had once complained against a powerful lawyer neighbour – and found the police unresponsive.

The police-politician nexus hit the headlines after Jessica Lal’s murder in 1999. The Delhi Police had admitted that senior officials had tried to help the main accused, the son of an influential Haryana Congressman. “The police don’t feel the need to be accountable to the public because their loyalty lies with politicians. Cops know they will get good promotions or postings if they please politicians,” says a home ministry official.

Even women cops do little to instill confidence among the people. “The problem is that female cops too come from the same police culture of corruption and brutality. How can they be any different?” asks N. Dilip Kumar, joint commissioner of police, provision and logistics, who had earlier served in the anti-corruption and vigilance departments of the Delhi police. “Indian policing is all about batons and bullets and criminals and charge sheets. It is unfortunate that cops don’t remember that they are dealing with human beings,” he says.

There are reasons for this. Experts maintain that the Indian police are carrying on the legacy of their colonial predecessors – who saw the agitating people as the State’s enemy. “Since the colonial times, the police are seen as the instrument of torture,” admits a senior official in the Calcutta police’s crime department. “It is the face of hostility and brutality. And sadly, the colonial mentality of cops hasn’t changed even in the 21st century.”

Adds S.A. Huda, director general of police (law and order), Andhra Pradesh: “The uniform and the baton symbolise power.” Coupled with this is a feeling of resentment. “So they vent out their class angst on the public, whenever they get a chance,” he says.

It’s not just that. In most parts of the country, just to get a lower-level police job means shelling out thousands of rupees – some estimate that it’s in the range of Rs 3-9 lakh – to the cops who recruit them. “So the moment they get inducted into the force, they want to recover the bribe money that they have paid,” says Prakash Singh. Bribes are paid by the cops through their service years – for a good posting at a money-spinning police post and so on.

The police also point out that constables are overworked and underpaid. “The stress piles up and then they snap in public. We manage a population of one crore only with 11,000 cops,” says additional commissioner of police (Law and Order) T. Sunil Kumar, Bangalore. Delhi – the capital of India – has a shortage of 7000 personnel, for example.

Salaries haven’t kept up with inflation either. “After 20 years of service, a constable would be promoted to head constable and his take home salary would be Rs 20,000,” Huda says.

With such handicaps, the efficacy of the police will be affected. According to the 2011 data of the NCRB, Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of cases of violent crime at 32,987, followed by Bihar at 26,003 and Maharashtra at 23,900 cases. In the south, on the other hand, especially Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, there were fewer examples of police atrocities.

A senior Delhi police official reasons that this is because the police in the north are insensitive to gender issues. “The north Indian patriarchal mindset is to be blamed,” says a senior Delhi police official. “Our force mostly comes from neighbouring states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where feudal mindsets are strong.”

But ironically more and more such men are being inducted into the force because they meet physical requirements. The Delhi police believe that men of a height of 5 feet 7 inches  or more and a chest measuring  81 centimetres are ideal for the job of a constable.

The tests for new recruits too follow a pattern that do little gauge the mind of a constable. The would-be recruit is tested in maths, English and reasoning but little beyond. “We just have to answer in yeses or nos. There is no scope to tell how we would behave in a crisis,” says inspector Raj Kumar of Delhi’s Kingsway Camp police station.

The negative image of police that one sees in the society is often reflected in popular culture such as movies, theatre, folk songs and even jokes. In many commercial movies, cops are seen to have reached late at the scene of crime, much after everything is over.

How bureaucracy affects the job of a cop was revealed In Mahesh Dattani’s play, Seven Steps Around the Fire also revealed .“In my play, I showed how bureaucracy affects the functioning of the police They can’t see things objectively.”

Some stress that it is time for reforms in the police force. “Specific classes on gender sensitivity, timely promotions and placing the non-corrupt officers at the highest level are some of the immediate measures to be taken to cleanse the system,” says Singh, who filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2006 demanding police reforms.

The same year, a model Police Bill was framed which stated that state police boards be set up for deciding on promotion and transfers. Other recommendations included a fixed tenure for a police chief and other key functionaries. “This would have also checked political interference in the police system,” says Singh. The Bill, however, has been gathering dust.

A sense of belonging, some argue, has to be instilled in the forces. “They also have to feel that they are for the people,” says Sanjeev kumar Singhal, joint commissioner of police, Pune.

That, however, seems a distant dream. For the present, many would say that the police are not for them – but against.


Caught in the Act

1974: A 16-year-old tribal girl, was allegedly raped by two policemen on the compound of Desai Ganj Police Station in Chandarpur district of Maharashtra.

September 2006 : Five policemen accused of allowing passage of arms and ammunitions from Rajgad to Mumbai which were later used in the series of 12 blasts in 1993 were convicted under Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA)

August 2008: Mumbai police’s encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma was dismissed on charges of corruption but was reinstated on 9 May 2009. . He developed close links with underworld don Chhota Rajan.

October 2008: An Uttar Pradesh police head constable posted at Sahibabad police station alleged to have criminally assaulted a minor girl inside the police station.

November 2011: A woman was dragged out of her house in Hariharpara of We st Bengal’s Murshidabad district and was gang-raped by cops inside the police station.

May 2012 : A police Inspector in Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha district turns body of a dead man with boot to see bullet injury.

July 2012: A teenaged girl allegedly kidnapped by three men in UP’s Sitapur was reportedly recovered, detained illegally for five days and repeatedly raped by a policeman and a village chowkidar before being handed over to the family.

August 2012: A 23-year old injured man dies in front of police station in Indore after being denied medical aid.

November 2012 : Delhi Police officer Dinesh Dahiya caught red-handed by CBI for taking Rs 3 lakh.Cash worth Rs 4.25 lakh was also seized from Dahiya’s house.

December, 2012: A gang-rape victim from UP’s Ambedkar Nagar was allegedly raped by the inspector in charge of the police station where she had lodged her complaint.

December 2012: A  mentally challenged man was dragged, punched, and kicked by policemen in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh

December 2012: A constable arrested on charges of raping an Class VIII student in south east Delhi.

December 2012: A 35-yr-old man died in police custody in Mumbai’s Dharavi police station. Family alleged police toruture the reason for his death.

  (This is the longish version of the story published in The Telegraph on January 6, 2013)

1 Response to "THE UGLY POLICEMAN"

This is absolutely true!! In the recent past we have seen that only when media had brought up the issue, police has acted, only to save their face and have cole up with a laundry list of excuses for their insensitivity. Its time they are recruited bases their EQ and not just IQ or physique.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


  • ranginee09: It is clear, justice eludes many but to imprison a man for his humanitarian deeds in a civilised society leaves an permanent blotch in our criminal ju
  • ranginee09: The article points-out a very pertinent social ill. Social ostracisation in childhood may have unwanted results later in life. A child victim is not a
  • Seeker and her search: Thanks for reading, Anne. Yes, I know what you are saying.
%d bloggers like this: