Helpless Police Machinery

As per instructions of the Home Department there is a peace committee in each important town.  Do these peace committees really help in maintaining peace?  Many people like myself have very different experience of these committees.  The peace committees are used by the rival political parties as a battlefield to go at each other’s throats.

The diehard Hindu & Muslim communal leaders go on blaming each other.  Some criticize the administration to impress on the people their stature.  These acrimonious debates heighten the tension.  The members of the peace committee make speeches in the village instigating communal hatred & violence.  Some times there is a fear of scuffles in the meeting itself.  Shrewd officers pacify the aggressive leaders and send for tea.  They hurriedly wind up the meeting & heave a sigh of relief.  They return to their offices and send wireless messages to the head officers & the Government saying, “peace committees meeting was held.  All have agreed to maintain peace during the festival etc. etc.” 

What sort of peace committee are these?  I used to call them committees “Disturbance Committee’.  I disbanded these non-peace committees in Bhivandi and instead established 70 Mohalla Committees.

A chief minister had issued a circular that the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate (Collector) of the district would be held personally responsible for communal riots in their jurisdiction.  If the Superintendent of Police or Commissioner of Police has control over the factors leading to communal riots, he should by all means be held responsible for the same.  But how far do I, as Superintendent of Police have control over the causes of the riots?

One of the basic causes of communal riots is history itself.  We read in History that Mohammed Gazani invaded India 17 times.  He destroyed Hindu temples including the Surti Somanth temple.  He defiled idols and raped Hindu women and so on and so forth.  Hindus reading this history feel that every Muslim is Mohammed Gazani.  He starts hating all Muslims. Can I, as Superintendent of Police change the recorded History?

The second important cause of communal riots is our school curriculum.  It told us that Krishnadeo Rai was a Hindu King.  He did a lot for the Hindus.  He worked for upliftment of Hindu religion.  He fought for Hindu religion till the end. We are told the Aurangazeb was a staunch Muslim.  He spread Islam.  He fought for his religion till the end.  The innocent children get the message that they must fight for their religion.  This is the social conditioning of the students.  He continues to believe this even as an adult member of the society and this prejudice subsists. Can I, as Superintendent of Police, change the school curriculum that causes the prejudice?

The third important cause of communal tension is the Elections.  Elections are an integral part of Indian democracy.  In most elections the candidates are elected on the basis of caste and community.  Marathas are selected for Maratha dominated area, Yadavs for Yadav dominated area Brahmins for Brahimin area, dalits for dalit and in Muslim dominant area Muslims are given the tickets.  No political party is an exception to this practice.  The propaganda is also on caste and community lines.  Divisions are on clear-cut caste and religion lines.  It is easy to secure chunks of voters by appealing to the caste sensibilities.  However this leads to estrangement and bitter rivalries in castes and communities.  It breeds communal hatred.  It builds up communal tension.  Can I, as the Superintendent of Police check the selection of candidates on the basis of caste and religion.

The fourth factor leading to communal tension is provocative speeches and writings.  Some newspapers and magazines perpetually publish such writing as may fan communal enmity.  Communal leaders pour communal venom through their speeches.  What can I do as Superintendent of Police?  In this case I certainly have some authority as Superintendent of Police.  I can proceed against such persons under sections 153 A, 153B, 295 etc.  However it is interesting to note what happens to such cases.  I studied such cases in Thane district from 1960 to 1980.  A total of 53 offences were registered in this period.  Government refused permission for prosecution in 23 cases.  30 cases were sent up in the court.  All 30 cases ended in acquittals!  This means that people are free to write or speak whatever they like.  As Superintendent of Police I can only register cases, but nobody is afraid of conviction.

The fifth important issue is the disposal of the communal riot cases in the present criminal justice system.  What happens to the actual riot cases?  Every citizen expects that the rioter should get heavy punishment.  But what punishment is actually meted out in the courts?  It would be useful to study the out come of communal riots cases in 1984. Police arrested and charge-sheeted 962 persons. The special courts established by the Government worked for 16 months.  Hundreds of witnesses were examined.  Hundreds of documents were scrutinized.  What should be outcome of cases of this voluminous work?  How many should have been punished?  961 out 962 accused were acquitted!  Only one accused was convicted for five years imprisonment and fine of Rs. 2000.  This solitary chap appealed in the High Court and was acquitted in the High Court!  200 killed, property worth 7 crores looted or destroyed resulted in one person spends 15 days in jail for it!  This is the sorry picture of our criminal justice system!  It may be a matter separate research as to who is to be blamed: the Police, the Government prosecutor or the Judiciary. The fact remains that cases remain pending in the courts for years and yet the convictions are few and far between. The cases were investigated by the reputed CID crime.  Yet all accused got acquitted.

I may be held responsible for the riots as the Superintendent of Police but I must concede that I am helpless in preventing communal riots, since I have no control over causes of communal riots.