Mumbai Police must refine the art of policing

Published on Jan 16, 2020 12:03 AM IST

The sensitivity that the force showed towards protestors needs to be extended towards women and children too

Once spoken of as the Scotland Yard of the East, Mumbai Police now faces new and different policing challenges.(HT FILE)
Once spoken of as the Scotland Yard of the East, Mumbai Police now faces new and different policing challenges.(HT FILE)

A number of participants in various protests in the last five weeks across Mumbai, organised against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and violence on students, have commented on the citizen-friendly nature of the Mumbai Police tasked with managing them. Comparisons were made, favourably of course, with the Uttar Pradesh Police which went baton-wild and trigger-happy while regulating such protests in that state.

The benign approach of the Mumbai Police was not surprising. It had a lot to do with the political command and its preferences. The Maharashtra government led by CM Uddhav Thackeray has been ambivalent on the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC), but the CM unequivocally stated that he would not want protestors to come to harm. Top cops and constabulary tend to pick up such signals and riff off on them as they police the streets and protest sites. A BJP chief minister might have seen a starkly different approach from the force.

This underlines, yet again, the urgent need for police reforms and the need to separate basic functioning of the force from political winds of the day. This is, after all, the same force that gave Mumbai its martyrs during the grisly 26/11 terror attack, from sub-inspector Tukaram Omble to joint commissioner Hemant Karkare; it’s the same force that fired discriminately in the 1992-93 riots that caused Justice Srikrishna Commission report to note that “police officers and men…appeared to have an in-built bias against Muslims…seen in the active connivance of police with rioting Hindu mobs”.

Beyond the mandated reforms which have been sputtering on — the government told the Bombay high court three years ago that it had introduced reforms like filling up vacant posts, upgrading forensic labs, providing adequate training and strengthening the investigation system. Once spoken of as the Scotland Yard of the East, Mumbai Police now faces new and different policing challenges. The force has adapted but has it adapted well enough, is the question.

The question assumes urgency in the light of three trends in criminal acts and legal violations. Wrong-side driving or wrong-lane driving has become a menace on the city’s streets. Of the vehicles, two-wheelers are the worst offenders. Why is the force this easy and sanguine with them? What does it take to crack down on all offenders and send a no-nonsense message? Then, as the data in National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report of 2018 shows, cybercrime including online frauds, cheating, and stalking have seen a large increase — cyber offences increased 8% over the previous year but cybercrimes against women spiked by 33%. The Mumbai Police’s approach and arsenal to deal with cybercrimes remain compromised by the lack of trained personnel and adequate technologies.

Lastly, the trend of crimes against women is not slowing down; on the contrary, the 2018 report shows a 10% rise over the previous year with molestation accounting for one-third the cases. The sensitivity that the force showed towards protestors needs to be extended towards women and children too.

May the force be with Mumbai Police this year.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    When the Siddhartha Vihar Hostel in Wadala was brought down, floor by floor, in early February by the BMC, a piece of Mumbai’s history associated with Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was obliterated.

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