BY: JAVED ANAND
On July 17, The Indian Express scooped a report prepared jointly by the police chiefs of three states — Sanjeev Dayal (Maharashtra), Deoraj Nagar (UP), K. Ramanujam (Tamil Nadu) — and a senior IB officer. Muslims think we are communal, noted the report presented at the annual conference of DGPs in New Delhi in 2013.
Significantly, there was an honest admission that such perception is not without basis: “Poor representation of the minorities in the police forces has contributed to this distrust and suspicion. It has to be admitted that the conduct of some members of the police forces in various states during communal riots had only served to strengthen and heighten these suspicions and distrust in the minority communities,” the report said.
Warning of the serious implications of police bias “on the communal situation in this country and thus its internal security”, the DGPs recommended urgent remedial measures. While the UPA government did nothing, under the new Sangh Parivar-backed NDA dispensation, any talk of corrective action will surely be castigated as “Muslim appeasement”.
On July 31, Justices V.M. Kanade and P.D. Korde of the Bombay High Court sent out a new red alert, observing that most victims of custodial deaths in Maharashtra appeared to be Muslims and Dalits. The high-powered Sachar Committee appointed in 2005 by the prime minister to study the educational and socio-economic status of Indian Muslims had concluded that the community was grossly underrepresented in various state and social institutions, and was conspicuously overrepresented in only one institution: India’s jails.
Rampant religious bias in our context is not very different. It is as old as the widely acknowledged racial bias in the US resulting in overrepresentation of people of colour in America’s prisons. Following countrywide research, Vibhuti Narain Rai, a senior IPS officer, had published a study in the mid-1990s on the perception of the police among India’s minorities.
The study found that the country’s religious minorities, Muslims included, see the police as a partisan force. Rai had pointed out that the police, the armed limb of the state, was also its front face. If the minorities continued to experience the police as an alien force, they will inevitably end up feeling alienated from the Indian state as a whole, with serious internal security implications, he had warned. The ruling classes were as uninterested in what Rai said then as in the DGPs’ recent report.
One need only look around, whether in our immediate neighbourhood or beyond, to acknowledge that prejudice and bias against vulnerable minorities — religious, ethnic, racial, linguistic, casteist — is a global, not an India-specific, malady. Forget self-flagellation. What about some continued…