Who are the Real Victim of Riots?

Some senior officers raised doubts about the legality and validity of the scheme.  They asked whether it was proper for police to hold meetings in every street corner and deliver speech.   They said that neither the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure nor the bible of the police force - the Police Manual - has mentioned or allowed holding of such meetings.

I wanted to reply with, “if police can enter these same street corners to shoot down people, why can’t they do so for holding meetings?”  But since they were my senior officers, I couldn’t say it.  Instead, I said, “There is no mention of holding meetings in police manual but the law makes it our responsibility to prevent crimes and the meetings are part of it.”  They weren’t happy with my reply and asked me to stop making the mistake of holding meetings and instead to focus on prevention of crimes by registering offences against people under the prevention acts.
Since those officers were a native version of the Colonial authority, such advice was to be expected.

I am of the firm view that police should create a community forum like the Mohalla Committee.

Who suffers in the riots?  Who are the first ones to get sacrificed in a riot?  Only two kinds of people suffer in communal riots.  I noticed this in my study of Bhivandi riots of 1984.  About 200 persons were killed in the riots.  Only 66 dead bodies were identified.  How many of them were rich?  How many were poor?  My observation that 95% of those killed were bellows the poverty line.  Police had charge sheeted 962 persons.  I student the economic background of 243 of them.  How many were rich?  How many were poor?  63 % of them were below the poverty line.  This means that the street dwellers, not getting two square meals a day are most important suffers in the communal riots.  Common men like you suffer in the riot!  Who is the second victim of the riots?  The police!  Once the riots start they are away from their homes & on the streets for days on end.  They have to go without food & water.  They get injured. They may even get killed.

Who are the beneficiaries of communal riots?  Who capitalizes on the death and destruction of the poor?  The only thing achieved by the blood shedding is that ‘A’ captures the chair of ‘B’.  Communal riots become gateways to the corridors of power.  This means the real beneficiaries of the riots are the communal leaders who usually have a hand in starting and perpetuating the riots in the first place.

Unless the two suffers of the communal riots - the poor people and the police - come together there will be no redemption from these riots.  It was for this reason that a common platform for the police & the poor common man to come together was created in the form of the Mohalla Committee.  It is an effective tool.  At least at present.  I see no better option for jointly combating with the communal leaders.

The meetings of the Mohalla committees commenced in Bhivandi since 1988.  The effects were gradually apparent. Rambhau and Abdullah started coming together regularly on a single platform.  Their animosity reduced.  They realized how misleading their prejudices against each other were.  They became friends.

We started to bring petty disputes before the moholla committee.  Many may not know that 95% complaints brought to the police are of non-cognizible nature.  Police can do nothing in these matters. They only advise the complainant to file the case in the court.  How effective is the justice system in India?  Serious cases like murders remain indisposed for 15 years! The deceased must be yelling at the judge from heaven (or Hell?),  “My lord, convict or a acquit the man, but for heavens sake finish off the case!”  Lakhs & Lakhs of suits and cases are pending in the courts.  The criminal justice system in India has just collapsed.  The resolution of petty disputes in the Mohalla Committee prevented major officences in time. 

Mohalla committee members know the complainant and the accused inside out.  They fully know who is right and who is wrong due to their physical, emotional and social proximity.  The traditional ‘divine justice through the 5 wise men (or Panchas)’ offers a high quality of justice.  The decisions of Moholla committee are closer to the truth.  I feel that the decision of the moholla committee in any matter is quite superior even to the full bench decision of the Supreme Court.  In Bhivandi mohalla committees started dealing with such petty civil disputes & criminal cases.  When some one refused to accept the decision of the Mohalla committee and took the matter to the court, the members of the committee willingly deposed against such person in the court.  This lead to reduction of cases in Bhivandi.  Strain on the judiciary got reduced.  In my childhood, the petty disputes in my small village did not go to the court.  All matters were dealt with fairly in the village it self.  Such system prevailed in the great Maratha King Shivaji’s regime.  We revived this system through our mohalla committee.

The third advantage of the mohalla committee was that the police sub-Inspector made 100 friends in a mohalla. He started getting A to Z information of small and big events in his jurisdiction.  He knew who was spreading rumors. He knew who was holding secret meetings and instigating people against one another.  It was now for the police to deal with such mischief mongers.  In short, police intelligence system got strengthened & effective.

The fourth advantage was the radical change in the police behavior.  The otherwise bullying, threatening, arrogant, abusive, assaulting policemen started going to various mohollas and started mixing with all shades of people starting from dalits to high caste and from millhand to millowner.  They started listening to them patiently.  They started solving their problems not only with the police but other departments too.  This radically changed their image & attitude.  The Deputy Police Commissioners succeeding me continued the committees.  What was the most notable benefit?  After demolition of the Babri Mosque there were riots all over the country.  Bombay was gutted twice.  What happened in Bhivandi?

Members of Mohalla committees in Bhivandi started patrolling their area with a constable or two.  They worked together to put an end to any rumours.  They informed the police of the activities of the antisocial elements.  They watched the activities of the diehard communal elements. They themselves patrolled the area in groups.

Every Mohalla committee resolved that whatever might happen outside, they would keep their own Mohalla peaceful.  Mohalla after Mohalla remained peaceful. Bhivandi had witnessed serious communal flare-ups in 1960, 1965, 1970 & 1984.  But this time while the whole nation was engulfed in communal frenzy, not a single stone was pelted in Bhivandi.  Bhivandi remained completely peaceful.  Many social scientists, Social workers, media men analyzed this surprising phenomenon of peace in Bhivandi.