On 31 August, students of Kohima’s Little Flower Higher Secondary School got a break from their regular timetable: in place of Maths, English and Physics, they had lessons in cyber crime, road safety and self-defence. Nearly 500 girls — from classes 9, 10 and 11— participated in a two-and-a-half-hour long session conducted by the Nagaland Police as part of their new initiative — Police Ke Pathshala, an outreach program to connect the police and student community of the state.
“The program aims to change the perception of students about the police. Often when they think police, they think uniform and scare away easily. Another aim is to increase knowledge and awareness about criminal laws and impact of issues such as cyber crime and drug abuse especially on young impressionable minds,” says Sonia Singh, Inspector General of Police (Range), Nagaland, who started the initiative. Singh personally conducts these sessions — the first of which took place at the all-girls Little Flower School on August 31. “That was the official launch of our initiative. Now we have seven more such interactions lined up: next we will be going to the reputed Kohima Science College, a co-ed institute,” says Singh, adding that she had written to heads of 40 colleges and schools across Kohima.
The session consists of a lecture, a presentation and an open interaction between the students and officer Singh. In the session on Friday, the topics discussed included cyber crime (stalking, voyeurism, defamation, revenge porn), crimes against women, self defence, road safety and criminal law amendments.
“The students actually opened up and started sharing their grievances too. With Madam Sonia, they felt they could talk freely. What she said about cyber crime especially had an impact — about how their photos could be misused, about the dangers of sharing personal details on social media. These are things most parents don’t talk to their children about,” says Arenla Inchen, a senior faculty member of the Little Flower School.
In her presentation, officer Singh also touched upon substance abuse and alcoholism. While Nagaland had a substance abuse rampant problem in the early 1990s, the situation is “considerably better” today. “However, there are no reliable statistics to imply that. A lot has to do with Nagaland’s politically volatile history, too. It has had a psychological impact on many youths, who begin to lose hope about their future and turn to such activities,” says W Chenithung Humtsoe, Executive Director, Bethesda Youth Welfare Centre, which works in the fields of drug dependency and alcoholism in the state, adding that there are very few government-initiated awareness programs about the same.
Hekani Jakhalu, founder of Youthnet, a Kohima-based NGO that works towards empowering the youth feels that the lack of awareness whether it about law or opportunities is what ails many youngsters in Nagaland. “Where social media usage is concerned — it is as high in Nagaland as it is in any other part of India. But many youngsters do not know how it can be misused.”
Thus, for officer Singh — who was earlier on deputation in Uttar Pradesh, where she did similar sessions with the students there, too — a main focus of her entire program is social media vigilance.
“We learnt that every message we post can be traced back to us and that our photos can be misused,” says 15-year-old Imlibenla Longkumer, a class 10 student at the Little Flower School, “We really enjoyed the session mostly because we were able to be free with ma’am. Some of us even started applauding and hooting.”
The Police Ke Pathshala initiative has three phases. “The first phase covers Kohima. We will move on to other parts of Nagaland thereafter,” says officer Singh, adding that many laws have largely remained laws “only on paper” and that the project aims “not at a societal change but for starters, a change in perception about the police.”