A khaki overhaul

Higher Muslim representation alone won’t address the minority’s mistrust of police.

Rather than numbers, it is the prevailing politics that explains the alienation and sense of insecurity among Muslims. Rather than numbers, it is the prevailing politics that explains the alienation and sense of insecurity among Muslims.
Published on:July 29, 2014 12:57 am

By: Arvind Verma

Much like Bollywood movies where the police appear in the last scene, when the full story has already been told, the recent report by three DGPs is a belated realisation. That Muslims are poorly represented in the armed forces, including the police, has been known and documented for decades. Every commission report on communal riots has provided further evidence of police bias against the largest minority community in the country. Justice Srikrishna, in his inquiry on the Mumbai riots of 1992-93, stated: “Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in-built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots”. That Muslims continue to distrust the khaki and see it as communal should be a surprise to the three senior DGPs or the home ministry. The only welcome part of their report is that this is the first admission by the police establishment of having neglected the Muslims of India.

For decades, police forces have been blind to the need to earn the faith of the community. Even in areas with a high proportion of Muslims in the population, their sense of insecurity and alienation has been apparent. Terrorism in the name of Islam has led to further profiling, which has engulfed a large number of innocent Muslim youths. The acquittal and the scathing remarks by the Supreme Court in the Akshardham case reveal how anti-terrorist operations in the country target innocent Muslims. The police have yet to develop a response to the sense of persecution and the growing ghettoisation of Muslims, as seen in Gujarat and, more recently, in Muzaffarnagar.

Improved training, countering rumours through modern communication systems, better public relations and monitoring provocateurs, as recommended by the DGPs, are all welcome and much-needed steps. However, it is doubtful if these steps can bridge the gulf between Muslims and the Indian police. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, in 2013, there were 1,08,602 Muslims serving in the police, that is, around 8.05 per cent of the total number of personnel. Thus, in no state police force, except Jammu and Kashmir’s, do Muslims serve in proportion to their numbers in the general population. Unfortunately, there is no data to determine how many Muslims occupy supervisory positions and importantly, are posted at police stations where service to the Muslim community is more meaningful.

But numbers alone do not matter. The small proportion of Muslims does not necessarily reflect a bias in the recruitment of police personnel. For the subordinate ranks, the selection begins with a physical test. This entails running a mile, which has to be done in open fields. It is difficult to discriminate against anyone qualifying in these …continued »

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