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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

‘Unprofessional public dealing’ a roadblock Public-Police relations in India; Possible Ways out

The relationship between the police and the general public is vital to establish and maintain law and order in any country. The interdependency of both goes hand in hand where mutual support ensures prevalence of law. While the police are supposed to maintain law and order, the public needs to support this cause as it is important for them to maintain this mutual dependency on the grounds of a better social temperament or rather a peaceful status quo.

Over the years, as societies evolved, crimes did too and it is the responsibility of the police to look after the general public and protect them. But this also depends hugely on how well the public co-operates with the ways of the police.

This is perhaps a very general understanding of why and how there needs to be a peaceful association between the police and the public. But what if the policing that is applied is crude and unprofessional? That is the focal point of this article that provides insights into how important and necessary it is to maintain a harmonious public-police relationship and questions whether the police are professional in their approach.

The article then moves on to discuss the various ‘methods’ the police use in order to assert their dominance and how it snaps the bridge between them and the public and how deep the influence of the law-making bodies had clawed into this complex relation. Towards the end, the article also analyses the various real-life exchanges that had taken place between the two parties in question and offers a solution to the unending saga of the insidious war between the common people and the public.

Unprofessionalism in exchange for peace

Unprofessionalism comes in all forms if one considers various aspects of the political system in India. But is police politics too? That is a question for another discussion but here we discuss the kinds of unprofessionalism exhibited by the Indian Police and the root cause behind them. The foundation of this relationship between the police and the public is very basic and subjective. The social situation of the particular society contributes heavily in the context of this situation. To understand this the actor Surya starrer, Jai Bhim (2020) can be considered as an example.

The movie was based on a real-life incident that happened in Tamil Nadu, India. In this movie the police discriminate based on the caste hierarchy and this is because the community that they live in, the landscape of that particular community is made to look at people through the lens of their caste system and this leads the police in the incident to torture and kill the innocent lower caste men in the incident. This explains why the social set up plays an important role in determining the state of the public-police relationship. How do we fix this? As much as this is an important question, the only way to end this type of a bad balance is to end the prejudice that prevails in India from time immemorial.

Another major and very visible unprofessionalism is bribing and this concept does not require any example as one witnesses this happening everywhere in the country almost every day. Although it would not be fair to generalize and portray that “all police are bad”, a majority of the Indian police fall into the pit of unethical ways of evolving economically.

Bribery in India is very common to the extent that it has almost grown into general normalcy but a survey conducted by Transparency International reveals that, “India has one of the highest overall bribery rate (39%) and the highest rate of citizens using personal connections (46%), following India, Indonesia and China have the second and third highest rates of people using personal connections with 36% and 32% respectively.”

This report supports the general idea that the entire system is corrupted and if there needs to be a change, it has to be done from the very cause behind the issue. Police collect bribes from small vendors and small businesses, from autorickshaw drivers, from people who fail to follow traffic rules and in many other ways that are always unaccounted for. The blame ultimately has to fall on the police, the system, the society and the notion of this idea that money can buy anything, even power, authority and more specifically the law and order of the country itself.

There is an act called, The Police Act, 1861 and this is what the preamble of India defines as what this act holds, “Whereas it is expedient to reorganize the police and to make it a more efficient instrument for the prevention and detection of crime.” These lines emphasize the fact that the police need to be efficient and instrumental but not all police as authentic, otherwise there would not be a need to re-examine the public-police relationship.

In recent years, police brutality in India has seen great heights and has caused a major cleft between the common people and police. This is mainly because of the increased number of violent mobs in major cities like Delhi and Chennai. During these mobs the judiciary is pushed to arm the police with authority to do anything and everything to control the situation and in the end, the violence spirals out of control and the police get interwoven into the mob, the one that they were trying to end.

There are many instances of mob-lynching in India, which goes un-investigated . While in these cases of uncontrollable mobs and violent upheavals, the police are provided with the power to use force to stop it but using it limitlessly with no particular need and unnecessary use of force can be avoided in most cases.

Very recently the cases of police brutality and custodial deaths have been an ammunition for people’s negative opinion about the police. The custodial deaths of P. Jeyaraj and his son J. Beniks in Tamil Nadu, in the year 2020 and the violent outbreak caused due to the forced displacement of a community in Assam, followed by the protests and the police firing that followed that killed three people and several others injured in Assam in 2021 has had a huge impact and resulted in further decline in the relationship of the police with the general public. This can only be blamed as an uncontrolled and unreasonable use of power and dominance.

As discussed in the beginning in the movie Jai Bhim, depicting the real-life custodial death of Rajakannu, one can see how authoritarianism is used as a tool for creating a new form of social disorder (foisting false cases on innocents and custodial murders) within the government leading to the demolition of democracy. Brutality against the Irular community is not a thing of the past, recently in 2011, the Pazhankudi Irular Pathukappu Sangam (PIPS) in Tindivanam, Tamil Nadu reported the missing of six men and four women of the Irular tribe.

During investigation it was discovered that these men and women were arrested and driven to

“Illegal detention space” where they were foisted for temple theft. Additionally, women of the Irular community were subjected to sexual harassment. There are many such cases that either are camouflaged as yet another ‘habitual offense’ or are considered unimportant to be presented through mainstream media.

The moral pedestal

This idea of moral policing is very interesting. The police who are supposed to follow a set of rules, act on their conscience and not on impulse, abide by the discipline that renders them eligible to protect and safeguard the community sometimes rely on their backgrounds and personal opinions and traditions in “disciplining” the people of the society. Some police forcefully stop and harass young couples for being together in public spaces and sometimes they snatch their phones, wallet and other property forcing them to call their parents and confess that they were out together.

This is an immoral and unethical act that is purely based on the judgment of the policeman/policewoman in question. If there is no valid reason to assault couples, they should not be bothered for simply living by their right to act on their own will, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The police have no right whatsoever to interfere with the personal lives of the general public unless it poses any sort of harm to the society.

The idea of moral policing is paradoxical and today, has almost become a joke. The paradox lies in the fact that the police in general opinion are never referred to as being moral and abiding by the conventional morals and ethics of Indian tradition and culture or even the rules and regulations. And this quality or morality is almost never attributed to the police but they are forcefully shoving their idea of morals, principles and values down the throat of the people.

The system and its influence

The government which holds power partly provides the police with authority and the police on the other hand sometimes tend to blindly follow this with no questions raised. What happens here is the transfer of power but the end result of this evolution is the same. The only difference is that, the people who were supposed to be oppressed by the government directly are not

oppressed by the police who substitute for the government. This is a local and collective experience and is subject to individual judgements and interpretations but in my opinion this reflects the RSA- Repressive State Apparatus ideology proposed by the French Philosopher, Louis Althuser.

By RSA he means that armed forces of a country with authority and power, the army and the police are used by the government to force the people into a system that will keep them suppressed long enough for the government to flourish, loot and push the country into a worse state than its original, past situation. In this case the police almost represent voiceless puppets who are pushed around using strings.

Embracing empathy

As much as we are exposed to the darker side of politics, police brutality, the constant fear of the unpredictable actions of the police and the public humiliation one faces in situations where the justice is not served right by the police who do not care, it is also necessary to understand that there are very limited resources and funding for the betterment of the police in India.

The police are often overworked, underpaid and are deprived of the facilities that should be properly provided to them by the government like a proper police station, furniture and accessories that they must need, proper allowances, a better housing quarters and even under this context only approximately 48% officers are provided thai facility of a housing board quarters allocated by the government.

They lack funds to grow and develop in any way and the negligence they face from all fronts is very saddening. This could be one of the major reasons as to why they deviate and find other ways to help themselves survive in these extremely difficult and helpless conditions. It is also the duty of a common person to be emphatic towards a fellow human and by that I mean being empathetic to the police as much as we can as a community that understands and supports.

Outside of the Indian context and the strategic approach

In first world countries like the United States, police are offered better funding, a better disciplinary approach in their training and they are trained to meet the needs of the community and protect them over their individual needs. The issues like “Black Lives Matter” sheds light on the racist attitude of the US police but they are also trying to improve like the other countries like Hong Kong, Georgia and India where police brutality is still very problematic. But countries like Peru have transformed the narrative by hiring more female officers to encourage inclusivity. The other countries have stringent tests passing which will qualify a woman/man to take office.


In a sea of cases of police brutality and violence, it is difficult to trace solutions to the problems that causes the public-police relationship to be as strained as it is in India. As far as India is concerned the most commonly cited reason for this situation is corruption of political power. But other underlying, deadly reasons like prejudice, hegemony, asserting dominance, class, race, caste and gender based discrimination are not brought under the spotlight.

The only way according to me to solve this issue and reconstruct the relationship between the public and the police is to remove prejudice and view others as an equal. This equality will establish empathy and there will not be any room for unnecessary violence.

The police, who are an important part of the nation’s security and a symbol of reassurance of collective harmony, could be better trained as the police but also need to understand that they are citizens and people of the country first, and this might establish peace.


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