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Park Police

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It is like living in an illusion, with the matrix collapsing and plunging one into a world where there is no constant, nothing to depend on or trust. In the ‘normal’ world, going to the public park when one has nothing else to do is not something out of the ordinary. It is a favoured leisure activity the world over, particularly when the sun is shining on a winter day. One doesn’t need a ‘reason’ to go to the park, nor be answerable to anybody for being there.

However, the Dehradun police think otherwise. So, what would otherwise be a mundane period of one’s life, turns into an Orwellian nightmare, with the civilised order of things collapsing into public humiliation not unlike that meted out by the Taliban! It is one thing for the police to keep an eye on suspicious persons and activities – maybe even conduct the odd, random search. But, to round up everybody present who cannot give a ‘reason’ for being present, is outrageous, to say the least. This act, on Wednesday, not only inconvenienced a lot of people, it sent out an entirely negative message when visitors from other towns and states were also rounded up and taken to the police station.

How long will the people of Dehradun submit to such arbitrary behaviour? There is clearly a huge disconnect between the ruling elite and the general public. The police no longer believe they are answerable to the people, or exist for their convenience. The primary objective is to ensure the well-being of the powerful, influential and rich. Most of the time it is involved in a continuous tussle with the protesting masses to ensure they do not create a problem for the high and mighty. Recall an MLA raising the ‘privilege issue’ of being ‘gheraoed’ by protestors when on his way to the Vidhan Sabha!

It is only natural that, in the process, the cop on the street loses all respect for the citizen. It is the job, under the circumstances, for the officers in the echelons of power above to ensure that they remain focused on their duties and act appropriately at all times. Unfortunately, as in the case of the ‘raid’ on Gandhi Park in Doon, Wednesday, the force was led by a woman officer who should have known better. One would tend to give SSP Kewal Khurana the benefit of the doubt, but it is important that an example be made, now, of the erring official to apply some balm to the stricken psyche of those humiliated.

It is not possible in India, given the state of the judicial process, for an aggrieved citizen to sue the police department. But, are things so bad that such humiliation can be inflicted with impunity by an official ignorant of her duty? It may be argued that much worse goes on, particularly in areas safe from the vigilant eyes of the media, and objecting to such ‘minor’ inconvenience – particularly as it happened to inconsequential ordinary people – is to be unappreciative of the difficulties faced by the police. The fact however is: only a police force that knows its job and the legal parameters from which it must function will strive to become more professional, thereby doing its job better in the long run.

The police department in Uttarakhand is enormously top heavy, with a lot of brass – continuously promoted to the higher ranks irrespective of performance or requirement – having little to do except keep the doodahs on their uniforms shining brightly. The least they can do is spend time training and motivating their personnel in every way possible to deliver the kind of services expected from them in the challenging environment of the present. There are more important things to be done instead of scaring the lights out of some helpless couple kissing behind the bushes in a public park.

 

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