Cops should be seen, not heard: try telling Mumbai CoP that
Aug 29 2013
That was Mumbai’s police commissioner talking to NDTV a couple of days ago on the Shakti Mills gangrape of a young photojournalist.
Now if I were the police commissioner, and the media was hounding me for a rape that happened in my jurisdiction, what would I say? Whatever it is, you can bet it wouldn’t be what Satyapal Singh blurted out. Because the implication of what he said is this: if his force is allowed to do ‘moral policing’ without criticism from ‘media and so-called activists’, rapes wouldn’t happen. If his police force is allowed to stop couples ‘kissing in public and road’, rapes wouldn’t happen. If his police force is allowed to curb ‘couples indulging in all obscene things’, rapes wouldn’t happen. In short, what he is saying is that his hands are tied by ‘the media and so-called activists’ at a time when we are living in a promiscuous culture, and that’s why there are so many rapes all around us.
Is that how it is? Think of the horrific Nirbhaya case in Delhi a few months ago. What were the girl and her fiancé doing? They had just seen a film, and were looking for transport to go to their respective (and respectable) homes. What was the Mumbai photojournalist doing? She was on an assignment to shoot a derelict mill; it was early evening, and she had a male colleague to help her out.
Does any of this suggest a promiscuous culture? Were the four young people ‘indulging in all obscene things’? In one case, a young couple was taking in some normal, middle class entertainment at a decent time; in the second case the young couple, who weren’t even a couple but colleagues, were out on an office assignment (and not a non-office assignation). Does any of this suggest the police commissioner’s promiscuous culture?
If I were the police commissioner and these rapes had happened under my watch, I would say how very sorry I was, and how quickly I would go after the rapists (which both Delhi and Mumbai police did successfully). I would promise to do an urgent city audit to identify high-risk areas for women, and order those areas to be patrolled more effectively with immediate effect.
Then I would go to my political bosses and say, “Sir, you have given the police force an impossible job. We try and do it as best as we can, but our hands are tied.
“They are tied, first of all, by the VIP duty constantly assigned us. A recent report confirmed this, saying 40 per cent of our time was spent on this non-essential part of policing. The force is already undermanned, so these demands make our numbers even more inadequate.
“Then there is our legal system. How many cases of rape go to courts and result in conviction? The answer is pitiable. First of all, very few rapists get jailed. Second, courts take a long, long time to decide cases, and then often let people off with minimum sentences. So where is the deterrence?”
“Lastly, and this is a tough one for all concerned, have you seen the economic and social profiles of the rapists in these two horrifying cases? These young men lived in slums. They had no education. They had no jobs, or occasional and marginal ones. They had, in short, no future at all. Aren’t these young men powder kegs ready to go off any time? They can become criminals, minor mafia jobbers, street bullies and, possibly, rapists. “What can the police do about all this? Why does the police have to take the rap for things beyond its control?”
Having said that in private, I would shut the hell up in public. The golden rule to remember is this: most of the time, but especially in troubled times, policemen should be seen and not heard.