There is nothing new to be said about our police forces, what was said fifty years ago or seventy years ago will hold good even today.
Writing for The Indian Express two decades back I had said that “The growing ineffectiveness of state police forces in the face of powerful offenders creates a demand for CBI investigation, even in cases which are well within the professional and logistic competence of the state police. The CBI itself becomes eminently vulnerable to charges of bias once the affairs of the Central Government become the subject matter of enquiry. The state police forces are well on way to being reduced to a level where they will be good for nothing but ceremonial parades and watch and ward duties and a day may come when the CBI too may face an erosion of credibility. Who shall we turn to then? The Interpol, the FBI, or Scotland Yard?”
The moment of reckoning for the CBI seemed to have arrived. The family members of SSR sought the intervention of the Supreme Court to bring in the CBI. Then we are told members of SSR family seem to be distressed at the way CBI is investigating the case. What shall be done now?
The reiteration of the trite fact will help illuminate the dilemma of both police and the public. “The popular mind has a very straightforward and simple expectation from the police. It is that police should make itself useful to them in all sorts of circumstances. It is a demanding task. You cannot be useful to the victim and the offender, to the complainant as well as the accused, to the party in power and the ones in perpetual quest of wresting it, to the underprivileged and the powerful, all at the same time.”
The only way in which police can navigate this situation is by remaining strictly neutral and following the dictates of law. Therein lies the rub. Police never was, nor is, the agent of law; it is the handmaiden of those who control it. The word has gotten around that those who bring to bear the most pressure on police win the day.
The organizational culture of police puts too much premium on their blind obedience of orders. Stanley Milgram, a management expert conducted a series of obedience experiments in Connecticut in 1961 and advanced a hypothesis that human beings have a natural tendency to obey men in authority and they will even stoop to needless brutality and inhumane treatment of their fellow beings should they feel so commanded by an authority.
In the light of above findings, we can better understand the conduct of the police force in which obedience is drilled in day in and day out. The senior police leadership of the day, and in days to come, need to be put through a crash course in disobedience to refuse to make the organization available to the dictates of political expediency. But who will do it?
One must also now admit the sad but inescapable fact that increasingly it is the criminality of various echelons of governments that often require to be investigated. The fate of political leaders holding responsible positions in governments sometimes depends on the outcome of the investigation of a criminal case. The manifest centrality of impartial investigation for the functioning of democracy can no longer be ignored. The political control of police is leading to unheard of situations. Police officers acting as flag bearers of their respective governments find themselves pitted against each other. In West Bengal it was the CBI vs local police, in the instant case an IPS officer from Bihar was incarcerated by BMC. But the worst instance of police the mistaken direction that police has taken is the exchange of fire and tragic death of police men.
“As above, so below” was one of the central tenets of the ancient hermetic philosophies – the world in which humans lived was a reflection of the glories of Heaven, but at the same time, the heavens were affected by what happened on the mortal Earth. The eternal truth, “as above so below”, holds good even today.
India Today magazine once referred to Manoje Nath, a 1973-batch IPS officer, as being fiercely independent, honest, and upright. Besides his numerous official reports on various issues exposing corruption in the bureaucracy in Bihar, Nath is also a writer extraordinaire expressing his thoughts on subjects ranging from science fiction to the effects of globalization. His sense of humor was evident through his extremely popular series named "Gulliver in Pataliputra" and "Modest Proposals" that were published in the local newspapers.