Updated: March 13, 2021 2:33:31 pm
The Dalai Lama recently addressed the police fraternity of India in response to an invitation from the Indian Police Foundation. He spoke on empathy and compassion in policing. His views on the Indian Police were very refreshing. At the very start of his talk, he compared the Chinese Police with the Indian Police and said that while the Chinese Police kept watch over his movements, the Indian Police were “very sincere” and that they had taken care of him day and night.
The Dalai Lama’s impressions are naturally conditioned by his unfortunate experience insofar as, following Chinese atrocities in Tibet, he had to move out of his country and take shelter in India. His assessment, nevertheless, cannot be contested. He said that there is “no freedom in China” while there is “genuine freedom” in India. This is because India believes in the virtues of ahimsa (non-violence) and karuna (compassion). Elaborating further, the Dalai Lama said that in India there were different people, different languages, and many religions, and yet “everyone lived happily together”. He went on to say that even Muslims living in India did not show any feeling of being “uncomfortable”.
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The Tibetan leader specifically said that he was “very happy with the Indian Police” because they played the role of a protector and did not evoke any feelings of fear. He praised the Government of India for preserving the thousand-year old tradition of promoting real harmony. India, according to him, is an example to the rest of the world in this regard.
The Dalai Lama particularly praised the Indian Police and the Indian Army for preserving the Tibetan culture. The Chinese, on the other hand, looked upon Tibetan culture as a “source of separation”, and were, therefore, not well disposed towards it.
Responding to a question on how non-violence could be reconciled with the use of force, which becomes unavoidable while dealing with criminal elements. The Dalai Lama said that India has a great tradition of democracy and freedom, but “some mischievous people are always there” and that “harsh methods can be used for good purposes”.
The Dalai Lama also spoke on the education system of the country and said that these must reflect India’s “moral principles” and particularly, its ideal of “non-violence”. There should be greater emphasis on, what he called, the “inner values.” He had a significant observation to make on capital punishment. The Dalai Lama said the death sentence is “too much” and “not right”. The state has no business to take away a person’s life.
It will not be wrong to say that many of the distortions we see in the working of the police — its harsh treatment of criminals and rude behaviour towards public — are a legacy of the British Raj, which raised a force essentially to uphold its imperial authority. Tragically, there has been no change in the working of the police, which continues to be governed by the Act of 1861. The states which have passed new police Acts, purportedly in compliance of the Supreme Court’s directions, have merely given legislative cover to the status quo. For all practical purposes, the colonial police model is still very much in vogue across the country. If the police do not show empathy and compassion in its day-to-day work, we have only ourselves to blame.
During the pandemic, however, we saw the police in a new avatar. Policemen not only enforced the regulatory orders but also extended humanitarian assistance to those in distress. They distributed relief material among those hard hit by the closure of economic activities. Patrol cars, whenever not otherwise engaged, were utilised to transport the sick to hospitals or bring succour to senior citizens. There were even cases of policemen giving their blood to patients in critical condition and, at places, singing and dancing to entertain people confined within the four walls of their houses. The policemen did all that in complete disregard of their own safety — 1,120 police personnel sacrificed their lives in the process. Even the Prime Minister acknowledged that “the human and sensitive side of policing has touched our hearts”.
And yet, the police are criticised day in and day out. How many people appreciate the fact that the police are under-staffed, under-equipped and under-resourced and, above all, they do not have the functional autonomy which is so essential to enforce the rule of law?
There are occasions when certain sections of people having a grievance, real or perceived, agitate. The problem in such situations is that quite often elements of different hues jump into the fray. Anti-social elements try to fish in troubled waters. Opposition views that as an opportunity to destabilise the government. Forces inimical to the country, within and outside, exploit the situation to target the government. The police get sandwiched between the directions of the establishment and the expectations of the aggrieved sections. It gets blame for its handling of the problem anyway. Damned if you do this, damned if you do that!
The Dalai Lama, while concluding his talk, expressed his “deep appreciation” of the Indian Police and said that they are “really wonderful”. What he said could become a reality for the common man also if we all show commitment to bring about the necessary changes in the working of the police — transform it from the Ruler’s Police to People’s Police.
The writer is Chairman of the Indian Police Foundation
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