Khaki loses sheen to urban monotony
After more than a century of wielding imperial might, the inherent ‘troubles of urban living’ seem to have reduced the uniformed police officer to public enemy number one. HT reports.delhi Updated: Dec 22, 2011 00:29 IST
After more than a century of wielding imperial might, the inherent ‘troubles of urban living’ seem to have reduced the uniformed police officer to public enemy number one.
The very people he serves and protects now turn against him more often and violently at that. And the khaki that he adorns himself with has evidently lost its sheen.
On Monday night, a Delhi Police constable was assaulted by a driver in Sarojini Nagar when the former objected to his drinking in his car.
There have been at least eight such incidents so far this year. In four more cases, traffic police personnel have been mowed down by speeding violators across the city.
“The problem is lack of a relationship of mutual respect and dignity that is supposed to exist between the police and the population,” believes Dr Rajat Mitra, director of NGO Swanchetan.
This is because, says Mitra, the police are usually viewed as servants of the elite and the politically well-connected first and public servants later.
Add to this ‘colonial’ mindset, the hankering after a powerful master to be served, an inherent impression of being corrupt, illiterate and, frankly, relatively ‘unimportant’, there's no one who bears violent outbursts of mass hatred as the police constable.
“As the population gets more educated, it starts viewing the constable as a mere extension of an overbearing state. Violent rebellion becomes a legitimate answer,” he said.
And with both the public and police caught in the same daily grind — replete with the monotony of routine and frustration of being instantly judged — anger overcomes the fear of the law and the value of human life.
“Police officers, and especially lower subordinates, deal with many ‘legal and extra-legal issues’ and seek some sort of relief from it and usually end up settling for a violent alternative," said Dr. Nimesh Desai, director, IBHAS.
Both Desai and Mitra agree that a sea change is required to equip police officers for the pressures of policing a city as dynamic and violent as Delhi.
“While his bureaucratic bosses can get away with the lack of empathy, the constable who deals with the vulnerable in a crisis or in an aggressive environment can only expect a backlash if he attempts to exude authority,” Mitra said.