Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Is policing redundant?

Policing and Jails Are Not So Much Required Since They Harm the Social Conscience Apart from Diverting Taxpayer’s Money

When does good policing start and bad policing end? Never. And that’s why it is arguable that civic life is better freed from state control mechanism, like agents of the state law accosting you at every place in the city, which in fact is a common ground for all to be present in freely. The police today are, for whatever reasons more like a vigilante which robs you of your power to evolve your social conscience by making you enact and imitate their mind in social discourse. An example of a good police force or an country which is doing well without needing a police force is unavailable in today’s world, and is precisely why social conditions which are causing this volatile mass of troubled state’s needs to be cured of the violence in the societal mind, which can be done not by support for a police system which is even more violently predisposed, but by many other ways pertaining to community and cultural guidance which suitably appeal to commonly acceptable moral, physical or spiritual requirements. It would be wrong to think that the law ends where the police would cease to exist, because human relationships of peace is intrinsic to all people, unless they are denied by the system. One does not call for an abrupt end to policing but it’s the hope which is to be kept alive in this modern-day chaos, a hope which cannot be allowed to be snuffed out if man is to be compatible with all other men.

The question is, why should social morality be governed by offices of power, especially the police, in the case of the general public that walks out each day on the streets. And due to this idolizing of the police as being protectors of the law, and hence as some kind of heroes who are to be emulated by the common gentry, the man on the street is tempted to believe he is being part of establishing a noble institution that will protect his society, whereas he is becoming prone to cause abuse in family, neighborhood and society in a way which the police are adept and known to be abusive in dealing in common affairs of life of the common man.

Why should the police get so much precedence over the common man when in no way they are better than them? Anybody with a few weeks training can be a policeman, like we see in the case of the Village Defense Force in Imphal; so why this idolization to the point of police officers even acquiring a larger-than-life persona where they gather fame for being super cops who can cause a fear and forcible reverence for themselves in the crowd of commoners. In Manipur there have been examples of such policemen and the only example they set is to be not less than severe in their dealings.

The crime rate also seems to be very low where there’s less of the police, with common stories of the police many a time just filling its register with names of people detained for petty offences or no offence at all. How can the society keep paying for the extravagant official and domestic expenses of the policemen whose pay packet is so attractive that every young man wants to get into the Manipur police? With armed anti-state rebels on the wane, it’s better to disband the VDF and other forces instituted solely for that purpose. The level of police influence is so much that whenever someone is arrested, reasonably or not reasonably, the first reaction with the family people is not how to approach a lawyer etc., to get the person released as an innocent, but to find ways and means with the policemen to arrange a communication channel with the arrested person and a comfortable stay in custody. It has almost become socially obligatory. Conviction, justice and trial doesn’t matter much, more important is the police should be gratified during the whole time it takes for the law process, if at all it does. Also, the budget for the police in the state clearly corroborates the point that crime is less when the policing is less. The police budget 2021-22 for the hills is just Rs. 56,383 lakhs while in the valley it is Rs. 1,78,195 lakhs although the hills are 90% of the area of Manipur and the population there also is hardly lesser than the valley.

Then policing is bad, for it helps in forming a self-complacent attitude in the politicians, who have become a class by themselves which is given protection by the police and even by the central forces, like paramilitary, whose work is protecting the boundaries of the country and not civilian protection, which job has become their preoccupation because of politicians. The point is the forces officially can die for the country or at least some good cause, but not for individual civilians, which politicians are when you deprive them of protection that they get from the forces for doing the worst of jobs, which politicians are known to do with any work entrusted to them.

Mainly due to the police, the meaning of drugs rehabilitation has also been altered to mean control and punishment, thus undermining the life of those who may be incarcerated for petty drugs related crimes, or offences which do not harm anyone and which offences can be overlooked from the point of view of pardon by law. Law doesn’t have to be a closed space, especially in the way it regards reformative rehabilitation work, for drugs users, at the moment. Because of hero worshiping of the police, people in general have started believing that those drugs users sent to prisons by the police are rightly meant to stay as undertrials for years on end without access to justice. The police department and prison system in Manipur are considered above the law. The drugs rehabilitation center inside the Sajiwa Jail in Manipur is the most atrocious set up and goes against all norms. The whole law is subverted to keep drugs users in this jail against all norms, usually without any charges. Also, interestingly it is not the police, law or medical personnel deployed at the jail who decide when the detainees are to be released, but most unlawfully it’s the parents.

Police reform does not seem a better option than abolition. We must remember there was no police station in Imphal till the British came. Society is able to maintain its ethics by itself, this proves, and it was with the making of police stations and prisons that the crime rate increased, because the fact that prisons were built made it necessary that they be occupied also, thus making necessary the occurrence of crime, or giving an impetus to it. We can see also in history that good kings never had prison houses or dungeons but it was only the bad ones who kept in prison those righteous people who were a threat to their wrongdoings. In Manipur during the princely rule times there was supposed to be the Lalup and Lakpa, which may seem similar to policing but are not in any way. The thing is at that time the king commanded some amount of respect from his people who were much simpler than today’s people; we can’t expect both these times and situations to be similar. Today’s leaders anywhere are usually corrupt in some degree or other and hence do not get the same kind of response from the common people. Any crime committed was in fact an act against the sovereign king and his righteousness, so if a person was acting against the interest of the king and was punished, usually externed, it was acceptable to the gentry since it was not a relationship of only give and take, like the modern politician and his voters, but a closer emotional tie between the king and the ruled based on the principle of righteousness. Simply put there was very less cause for suspicion between men of all kinds and anyone who seriously betrayed the simple social bonds was considered to be inhumane more than anything else, and not fit for social communion.

Right now, the police operate above the law by the sole criteria of being a large institutional force. How can this be allowed in a country having a constitution? And it’s not in India only. Even in a country like America it took whole cities to come out on the streets in protest before some accountability was laid on the killers of George Floyd. In fact, the accused, the police officer Chauvin, should have been convicted much earlier. It took so much time. This gave the chance to the prosecutor at the trial to say, “Policing is a noble profession.” Whereas it is ascertainable for anyone that the profession does not live up to such accolades.  The prosecutor went on to state, “Make no mistake, this is not a prosecution of the police – it is a prosecution of the defendant.”

So, abolition is actually a universal necessity while pushing reforms may be just hoping against hope. But still abolition can come in gradual phases of reform for which it’s necessary it first of all occurs to the public and lawmakers as something better and saner than the present disposition of society which blindly serves the police. Corruption and brutality are common with the police here in Imphal too but these have most times not been questioned legally or socially. Another matter is the system of policing under which tainted policemen continue to be employed.

Again, sexual and gender crimes are not stopped by putting a few perpetrators in jail. It is the culture, which allows for such crimes to be imagined and which has to be changed. And abolition is a good beginning for that. And the government and public need to invest in things which can bring about better social conditions through abolition, rather than investing in policing and jails. Most people don’t go to the police because that would mean constant harassment, violence, insult and surveillance. The law too never thinks of improving on the social system, but offers recourse to the police and the law only as a kind of revenge mechanism against the person who has offended you. These things need to be considered. The police today can be considered to be the most gendered institution.

Prisons also are now being used as a weapon to silence dissent against the government. We have seen so many voices in the country, and now in the state also, being silenced for months and years by sending such vocal activists etc., to jail. Prison is more of a weapon now in the wrong hands and this occurrence is causing a lot of harm to the social conscience and confidence.

For the conscientious MLAs and MPs in the state it would be right to fight against the state’s exorbitant police budget and instead try to divert the budgetary funds to community improvement tasks, such as water supply, health, roads, education etc. Crime is because of social deprivation and investments should be for alleviating this and not furthering oppressive social conditions. Police and prisons are a cause for more poverty and alienation today as so much of the budget is diverted to their upkeep; and otherwise also the police forces in the state have never been an agent of sober social change. They have only made matters worse for community life.

Even a casual glance at the Manipur budget for the year 2021-22 reveals how lop-sided citizens’ concerns have become in the state. Only the Education budget at Rs. 255527 lakhs is just marginally more than the Police budget at Rs. 234579 lakhs. Whereas the crucial sector of Medical, Health and Family Welfare Services has a budget of Rs. 109556 lakhs, which is atrociously less than half of the Police budget for the year. Also, Agriculture got a share of just Rs. 37760 lakhs out of which again just Rs. 2855 lakh will go to the hills agriculture sector; whereas a glaring requirement of funds is seen in the Transport sector which got only Rs. 3233 lakhs even after considering the urgent need to revive and also expand a good public transport system in the state.

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