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Misuse of police: Crime has no religion

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
21 Jun 2021

On the morning of June 18, I woke up to read a horrible news-item in two Malayalam dailies. A 21-year-old boy, first, burnt to ashes the business establishment of a person he knew and the next morning he entered his house and killed his daughter and stabbed his younger daughter. A brilliant girl, she was doing the third year of her law course.

What provoked him was the father's refusal of the boy's proposal to marry her. The second time he pestered the family with the proposal, they complained to the police who warned him of dire consequences. Even the police could not have anticipated what he eventually did. It is called a crime of passion.

Will the story have made any difference to you that the boy and the girl were Hindus or one was a Muslim and the other a Hindu or a Christian or whatever. In the present case, they both were Hindus. A few years ago, a similar incident happened at Thiruvalla in the erstwhile Central Travancore region of Kerala. The killed and the killer were Christians.

Yes, it made a small difference to me. Since I am a Christian, I felt bad that a horrible crime was committed by a Christian. I want him to be given the severest punishment possible because he was a “Christian”. In other words, I expect greater probity, rectitude and better conduct from a Christian. Maybe I am wrong.

We as citizens must not be prejudiced for or against a person on account of his or her religion. Nuh is a district in Haryana in what was once known as the Mewat region which extends to Rajasthan. It is one Muslim-majority area from where there was little migration when the Partition happened in 1947.

The name Nuh is derived from the Biblical name Noah. He was the one whom God had asked to build a ship large enough to accommodate the male and female species of all animals and plants when the Great Flood occurred. He is  revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews. In the Quran, he is referred to as Nuh. 

Recently, a Muslim youth, who was suffering from typhoid, was kidnapped while he was returning from the market where he had gone to buy medicines. He was accompanied by two of his relatives. He was kidnapped and taken to an isolated place and killed. A clear case of murder.

The police say that the murder was the result of enmity. I do not have any evidence, either in my personal possession or in the public domain, to suggest that he was a holy man. 

The point is that even if he was not upright, nobody had any right to kill him. That right vests with the state which will have to try him before he can be punished. He will also have to be given the right to appeal against the punishment right up to the President of India.

In the case in Nuh, the police arrested some persons on the basis of evidence they collected. They all happen to be Hindus. No, I am not suggesting that the murder was because he was a Muslim. 

I can understand people getting agitated if a case is not investigated properly and arrests are not made in time. What happened in Nuh was that a large number of people, herded together by some political organisations, demonstrated against the police. They wanted the alleged murderers to be released.

The incident is a pointer to a new trend in Indian politics. Political parties are increasingly willing to defend criminals, if they support their ideology or belong to their caste or religion. How could anybody in his senses support those accused of murder just because they belong to their religious group?

In Congress-ruled Rajasthan, a person was lynched to death because he was suspected to be a cow trader. Usually, the victims of lynching are Muslims. They are supposed to be the ones who trade in bovines. He had all the proof to show that he was doing genuine business.

There is no point in checking the horoscope of a dead person. It is pointless to find out whether the animals in his truck were legitimately bought as it is of only academic interest because he cannot be brought back to life and punished for his lapses, if any.
For the person's family, especially wife and children, it is an irreparable loss. The case should be seen in this perspective. Nobody has any right to take the law into his own hands. 

One must also remember that Rajasthan is, perhaps, the only state where there is an anti-lynching law. Imagine, a state having to enact a law to deal with lynching, as if it is something like stealing.

Lynching has become quite common in the country. The law was enacted following the lynching of a Muslim dairy owner. He had gone to buy some cattle for making a living by selling milk. He was suspected to be buying the cattle for slaughter.

He was, in the process, “slaughtered”. The manner in which the case was investigated and tried caused shame to the nation. People began to ask where justice was when a person was lynched. Was human life less important than a cow’s life?

It is a very relevant question as states are enacting laws under which cow slaughter attracts a severer punishment like 12 years of imprisonment, instead of 10 years for man slaughter. Such laws already exist in Haryana and Gujarat, both ruled by the BJP. The anti-lynching law in Rajasthan has proved to be a non-deterrent.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad district, an elderly Muslim gentleman was thoroughly beaten up and his beard was cut with a scissor by some anti-social elements. When a video clip of the incident was released by a web-based newspaper, tough action has been initiated, not against the  miscreants but against the portal.

There are so many twists and turns to the case, which the police initially refused to register. It was mentioned that he was manhandled because he refused to recite the slogan of Jai Shri Ram.

The latest twist to the story has it that the victim had sold some amulets and the customers were not satisfied with their effectiveness. Only fools buy amulets!

Even if he was selling fake amulets — the fact is that all amulets are fake — it did not empower the fooled fellows to treat the person in the manner he was treated.

Why should the Chief Minister be compelled to make a statement to support the police version? Why can’t he allow the law to take its own course? This is easier said than done. When a Muslim girl was raped and killed in a temple in Jammu, there were protests against the police because they arrested the alleged rapists.

The protest was joined by leaders of the ruling BJP. When a Muslim was lynched in Ranchi because he allegedly slaughtered a cow, those who came to the rescue of the mobsters included a minister in the Modi government.

Worse, the minister held high educational qualifications acquired from foreign universities. If such a person is ready to defend lynching, why blame the ordinary persons who constituted the large crowd that defended the killers of a Muslim youth in Nuh? 

Alas, religion is increasingly becoming the most important determinant even in criminal cases. There are powerful political leaders who argue that a person like self-styled godman Asaram, accused of multiple rape cases, was arrested because of his religion.

Criminals are criminals, whether they wear ochre or white or yellow. Alas, we have made religion so important that a person can be denied citizenship just because he belongs to a particular religion. That is what happens in Pakistan. 

The testimony of a Muslim carries greater weight in a court of law than the one given by a Hindu or a Christian, especially in blasphemy cases which are, more often than not, used to deprive the minorities of their land and other possessions.

Are we becoming another Pakistan? Two days ago, two gentlemen, Mohammed Ilyas and Mohammed Irfan, were acquitted of UAPA-related charges after nine years of their arrest. They spent seven years in jail. Their bail applications were rejected four times.
Now, who will account for the years the two spent in jail? Will the police be able to compensate them for the harassment they and their families underwent? What about the huge sums of money they would have spent to fight the case? 

I am not blaming Modi. He came to power at the Centre only seven years ago. These two were arrested two years before he shifted to Delhi from Ahmedabad.

The court recently released three student leaders against whom the UAPA charges were slapped. By what stretch of the imagination could they be considered criminals against whom the UAPA should be applied? 

Even when they were ordered to be released, the Delhi Police cooked up funny excuses to delay their release. One of the excuses was that the police did not know their address. How did they keep them in jail for more than a year without knowing their address?

The case of Jesuit Stan Swamy is not any different. We have seen how the police and the trial judge colluded with each other to deny him a sipper. He needed it to drink water and other beverages because the 84-year-old priest, who spent most of his adult life with the tribals, suffered from Parkinson’s disease. A plastic straw can be obtained for as little as 10 paise!

I am confident that he and all the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case would eventually be acquitted, i.e., if they are able to survive the long incarceration but who will account for the torture that they have been undergoing? Journalist Siddique Kappen’s case falls in the same category. 

Just because a film actor from Lakshadweep, whose Malayalam is not exquisite, referred to the administrator of the islands as a “bio-weapon”, the police sought to arrest her under the law against sedition. How does using a metaphor against an administrator, who got the job only because he is close to Modi, become as serious a crime as sedition?

The string of verdicts against the government should have prompted the Union home minister to stop misusing the UAPA law against his political adversaries. 

The BJP often blames the Congress for all the ills of the nation. One of the worst things the Congress did was to enact the UAPA for which it has been paying a price. Why can’t the BJP do away with at least one Congress-inspired law?

The IPC and CrPC have all the provisions to deal with all kinds of crime. The laws presuppose that there will be a proper trial of cases. The government wants instant punishment. They treat the days persons like Fr Stan Swamy are kept in jail as punishment. It does not matter to the government that they are ultimately acquitted. 

It is for this reason that there should be a law whereby those who are acquitted are also paid compensation for the trouble they underwent.

We need a police force, which is fair and impartial. As Patrick Colquohoun, one of the founders of the New Police in Britain, says: “Next to the blessings which a nation derives from an excellent Constitution and a system of general laws are those advantages which result from a well-regulated and energetic plan of police, conducted and enforced with purity, activity, vigilance and discretion.

“The police have a fair claim, while they act properly, to be esteemed as civil defenders of the lives and properties of the people. Everything that can heighten to any degree the respectability the office of constable adds to the security of the state and to the safety of life and property of every citizen”. How do our police measure up to this ideal?


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