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‘Assam Rifles Zindabad’ slogans in Manipur; ‘Police reform’ a must

A video clip showing Kuki-Zo women pleading Assam Rifles not to leave

By Nirendra Dev 

New Delhi: During Gujarat riots of 2002, senior IPS officer from Uttar Pradesh, Vibhuti Narayan Rai had written a letter to several police officials lamenting point blank: “not only was the police unsuccessful in containing the violence ….. but it seemed that in many places policemen were actively encouraging the rioters”.

In many places, it goes without saying that the police always appear to be in an adversarial relationship with the common citizens. This was true pan-India cutting across all regions and state boundaries. Police forces are also said to be most ‘politicised’ in states such as Kerala and West Bengal. 

Now comes an overnight campaign by women in Manipur who say ‘Assam Rifles Zindabad’ …. These women staged protest demanding that Assam Rifles post should not be withdrawn from a buffer zone. 

Kuki-Zo women gathered in large numbers in Kangpokpi town and began protests along NH 2 against the plan of Assam Rifles withdrawing from the buffer zones in the district, reports ‘Imphal Free Press’.

The report under the catchy headline ‘Assam Rifles, We need you: Kuki-Zo women’ states that the womenfolk even marched toward the 22 Assam Rifles Kangpokpi Post near the Inspection Bungalow where they sat and slept the whole night on the road while another group of women stayed the whole night along the National Highway-2.

The Assam Rifles bosses had reportedly planned to withdraw from the buffer zones which actually did not happen after the Union Home Ministry held back. After learning the Centre’s decision to hold back decision to withdraw the Assam Rifles, the Kuki-Zo women’s protest ended in a thanking note as they expressed sincere gratitude to the Centre after it held back the withdrawal plan.

“One of the protestors said that the presence of the Assam Rifles in the buffer zones not only receded the non-stop violence in the peripheral areas but also provided peace of mind and security.”

These show the good works done by central forces and the trust they enjoy of the local in these trying times. This is something that should have happened with police too. But Manipur is no exception, police have failed in other states as well when such challenging times come. 

It is generally believed police reform is most urgent things the Modi government should attend do. Just as the country needs second or third generation of reforms, other social and administrative reforms, the country should also ensure police reform. 

It is all more easy for incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his regime to understand as no less that country’s NSA Ajit Doval is a former cop!

The date December 1, 2003 would be remembered as an important day but also a sad day for Mumbai police. The then city commissioner of police R S Sharma – a day after his retirement – otherwise would have been relaxing with family members and friends – was arrested in connection with the Telgi stamp paper scam.

Not many police heads in the history of policing in India must have faced this kind of indignity – to be arrested a day after his retirement. Prior to him Joint Commissioner of Police Shridhar Wagal was also held under MCOCA for aiding and abetting Abdul Karim Telgi in the running of his infamous syndicate.

In Gujarat, after 2002 riots from time to time — police made news for wrong reasons. Senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was one such case. Finally he was dismissed by the Modi government and there were strong remarks from the Supreme Court against him. 

The SIT report also claimed that Sanjiv Bhatt, along with former DGP R B Sreekumar and ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad had accepted a total of Rs 30 lakhs from Ahmed Patel, the political advisor of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to frame the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots.

There is definitely a nationwide clamour for reforms in police administration. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has spoken about certain limitations in today’s law. All these bring us back to the task emphasizing once again that the archaic Police Act of 1861 should be replaced at the earliest.

The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict in 2006 in Prakash Singh & Others and Union of India took serious note of the issue of police violence and impunity and directed the states to establish Police Complaint Authorities (PCA).

The judgment also made crucial points on the separation of law and order functions from the investigation functions for the police. 

Manipur DGP Rajiv Singh has been summoned by the Supreme Court. The bench is likely to reprimand him for ‘tardy’  probe. But what could have a Tripura cadre officer done — appointed only in June – to stem the rot is anybody’s guess.  

But there is no justification for the police lapses; but the Supreme Court has yet again a chance to underline the need for police reform. 

The sooner, the better — as they put it. 

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