Civil action in uniform

Roopinder Singh

At a recent meeting chaired by the Chief Executive (CE) of a ‘terrorist affected state’, it was decided to launch a ‘civil action’ in policing the state. Here is possible scenario of the discussion in which ‘high functionaries’, including the Administrative Chief (AC), the Super Cop (SC), and Minions 1,2 and 3 (M1, M2 and M3, respectively) participated:

AC: We have gathered together here discuss ways in which the image of our men in uniform can be improved and their positive achievements highlighted instead of the media harping on some alleged excesses they may have committed.

SC: As you are all aware, my boys are doing a wonderful job and but for this infernal media interference, they will perform even better.

M1: You are right, sir. Just look at the Press. They badger us if we kill one innocent family by mistake in Ambala. They even have the nerve to say: “Has the ‘cat’ who instigated the attack been punished?”

SC: I know, I know.

M2: This is a very dangerous line of thinking of next, sir. God knows what they may think of next. Why, they may even demand that our men and officers be held responsible for ‘encounter’ deaths.

SC: My boys are doing a wonderful job. We are tackling terrorism in adverse circumstances help from across the border, massive arms flow, public apathy and distrust of men in uniform and all that — on top of that we have to deal with interference from politicians, human right activists and media men.

AC: We are well aware of the onerous task that you have been performing and the tremendous personal sacrifice which you and your men have made, but you should remember that we are on your side. The meeting has been called to find ways to refurbish your image.

CE: Let us have some positive suggestions now. What do you propose to do about this matter?

AC: Well, we do have a way to tackle this kind of a situation. If I may speak candidly?

SC: Go on, go on. My men checked this room before the meeting. There are no bugs here!

M1: You mean that we have deactivated our bugs, sir?

SC: Shut up!

AC: (Instinctively, checks his pocket to confirm that his miniature rape-recorder is on.) Well, policing in our state has just been of the ‘bullet for bullet’ kind for so many years. Why don’t we go in for traditional basic, in fact what might even be called real policing and re-present that as a ‘new initiative’.

SC: A good idea, not quite original since my operation ‘Night Dominance’ was conceived in these very lines.

M2: Sir, launching an operation to take over night policing, something we were meant to have done all this while, was a brilliant idea. Look at the positive media coverage it got you.

CE: Well, in that case, we can call the new move ‘civic action’ in policing. Let the initiative come through from the district-level officials this time. Let them call for the adoption of the ‘Chaman Lal’ approach.

M1: Does it mean that the officer who was hounded in 1988 for being ‘too soft’ is being rehabilitated now, sir?

AC: Oh no, it is just that it is efficacious to advocate his approach now. In fact, since our men don’t have credibility and the sarpanches and panches do, let us use them. The police should involve them in arrests and interrogation of boys suspected to be militants, abstain from using third-degree methods during interrogation, etc. If I may make a suggestion?

CE: Certainly. Go on.

AC: It would be best if the action is initiated in a district closest to the state capital. There is more chance of it being noticed by the media then.

CE: Excellent idea.

M3: What I am worried about, sir, is that someone is bound to point out that by launching ‘civil action’ we are admitting that all this while our action were anything but civil?

SC: Oh, shut up. You are always so pessimistic.

AC: Well, then, here we are, all set out to launch a new initiative!

M2: You mean old wine in new bottle, sir.

SC: Shut up, and do as I tell you!

October 20,1992