Four days ago Satish Nagar (17), resident of Datoda, Simrol who had come to visit his relatives in Sukhliya area and was standing with his friends who were drinking near a shop at Chandragupta square, when the Heera Nagar police rounded up all of them.
Satish, who does not have a criminal record and his only crime was standing with his friend who were drinking, was kept in police lockup throughout the night even as his relatives kept frantically searching for him elsewhere.
“The police are targeting innocent persons in the name of curbing crime. The policemen simply pick up anybody from anywhere randomly and start beating them,” said a close relative of Satish, who lives in Nandanagar, and wished not to be named for fear of police harassment.
He had become one of victims of the latest anti-goonda drive of the Indore police.
Around 1700 anti-social elements have been held or rounded-up in the last one week and the numbers are increasing every day.
The modus-operandi of the drive is simple. A team of around 40 to 50 constables led by the area CSP and the thana in-charges enters an area – mainly a slum area where they round up the small fry of the area.
Some try to run away but are chased and brought to the ground. Then they are paraded and beaten in full public view, in most cases before TV cameras.
But there is a strong support for this drive among the masses, especially in the crowded slums, lower-middle class localities where small time goons harass and intimidate the common people.
Rukmini Bai, who works as a seamstress and lives in the Pancham-Ki-Phel supports the drive. “Some of the habitual drunkards, mischief mongers have been caught and thrashed. It is a good this to teach them a lesson because the local thana does nothing,” she complaints.
There are many like her who believes that the drive will give them respite from these anti-socials, at least for some time.
Though given thumbs-ups by many, a major flaw of the drive is that none of the big ticket criminals have been caught and given a dressing down before the public.
Shobhan Taparia (25), marketing manager at Efficient Construction in the Vijaynagar area says, “Where are the big names, those who are into extortion, land grabbing? I think only the small fries are getting caught. Indore police should show courage and act against the big names,” he says.
There is also the endemic problem of cops extorting money in the name of this drive.
A senior officer who did not want to be named accepted, “Yes many of the very ‘smart’ cops are taking bribes from small time goons by assuring them that their names won’t be in the ‘list’, but maintain secrecy of the place where we raid and we mostly use fresh recruits.”
There is also the question of human rights which appears to have been conveniently swept under the carpet.
Social activist Rahul Banerjee, who has been working among the underprivileged for decades says, “This is gross violation of the human rights and police are playing to the galleries,” he said.
However, police say they have every reason to support the drive, especially after DIG Rakesh Gupta said it was running successfully and added, “We have not booked everyone who were nabbed. Some of them were released after quizzing.”