As a member of the police fraternity , I feel ashamed to criticise the Delhi Police as its leadership miserably failed to contain the communal  riots which burnt the national capital for several days taking a claim of more than 40 lives and causing grievous injuries to hundreds . Losses of lives apart , there were reports of desecration of places of religious worships , targeting women and children and places of education other than dwelling houses . The communal ferocity with which the riots ran the writ for do many days, it would appear there was no law of the land and police was merely a mute spectator.

As a retired police professional , I would not divert the causes of the riots by blaming the politicians but the police force which , in the absence of any direction from its skippers, looked rudderless and helpless in controlling the ‘ free for all’ vandalism , wanton destruction of property and indiscriminate killings . The communal miscreants had a field day using firearms at will and killing people without any fear of law or police . There was no element of deterrence on part of the police leading to such a hapless situation .

Its high time now to take a stock where things went wrong ? In my considered opinion , the most vital component of policing is intelligence , which was conspicuously absent . Simultaneously , there was no regular assessment of yhe happenings which took the police by surprise . It’s indeed callous and cannot go condoned . Every police set up has a well oiled intelligence unit popularly called the Local Intelligence Unit ( LIU) and a system of beat constable network which is meant to keep a sharp hawking eye on the happenings under each police station . It’s obvious these organs remained dormant and were not heeded the attention they deserved . Now the assessment . Shaheen Bagh was on the boil for quite sometime drawing international attention in addition to causing huge inconvenience to the general public and tax payers . Police remained indifferent . It’s said that after 1984 anti Sikh riots , the communal clashes in north east Delhi was the most devastating occurrence of the nature of a communal violence . And, as is generally believed , after any external aggression , it’s the communal tension and riots which need maximum attention by any law enforcing machinery . Inflammatory speeches were made by anti social elements , guns were openly brandished and shots fired but no action was taken against the perpetrators of such crimes . It’s natural that these communal forces were emboldened and became more audacious to defy law and social order to resort to violence of inhuman proportions . What was the leadership doing ? It has become a fashion by a section of police to take cover by attributing every failure to blame the politicians for any communal or law and order problem or cite the lame pretext of political interference . No government worth it’s salt will ever ask the police to be indifferent to any communal build up or clashes that ensue . Police enjoys ample independence to act to address any ugly situation . They are armed , trained with the latest  riot gear, and have tremendous resources at their command to handle. In addition to this , they are believed to be in possession of sophisticated technology to monitor calls made between suspects detrimental to national security interests. Above all , they have the institutional support of the Indian Penal Code ( IPC ) and the Criminal Procedure Code ( CrPC ) giving the police enormous powers for prevention and enforcement of laws . Yet, there was a visible inertia and lethargy noticed amongst the Delhi Police to act . Why ? Why no force was used to stop the  vandals , the arsonists and the murderers to continue with fatal assaults ?

Police is also meant to maintain good rapport with the respectable and influential citizens living under each police station . They have sufficient say over the residents and are useful to diffuse any situation . As district officers , we appropriated their good offices in good measure in communally sensitive districts like Meerut and old city of Lucknow  and highly volatile communal tensions were diffused in time .  It would seem Delhi Police didn’t attach much importance to this age old practice as a wide gulf was seen between the cops and the public . The trust deficit between the two has increased many fold after the February incendiary riots . This has also divided the communities .

The local intelligence machinery was so oblivious of the happenings under its nose , that stockpiling of lethal arms and ammunition which went unnoticed . Isn’t it an abject failure ? Saddest part is the grotesque murder of a very young intelligence personnel who was targeted by a section of the communalists . Equally sad was the martyrdom of a Delhi Police Head Constable who laid down his life in the line of duty . They certainly didn’t deserve to die this way .  All these factors and the police negligence is keeping the force in cohesion are bound to create ire amongst the public  . Police is the symbol of providing security and safety to the people but that confidence is rapidly vanishing . It’s a very pathetic commentary on the police image which has taken a severe battering in the recent communal frenzy . It will take a very long time to win the lost trust of the Delhi Police .

Objectively speaking , it’s the National Security Advisor ( NSA) , Ajit Doval who was the first and the only high level functionary seen to assuage the hurt feelings of the riot affected people . His long experience and mature approach of communicating with the locals seemed to have augured well. The visuals showed the interaction and the convincing   assurances for safety providing much needed succour to the victims and their families .

At this juncture , it’s also imperative to redefine the role of the Lt Governor . He is the principal representative of the Union Home Ministry in the Union Territory of Delhi . His visibility in the initial stages of tension in Shaheen Bagh and areas like Bhajanpura , Jaffrabad , Maujpur , Chandbagh and Khureji Khas could have had some positive impact leading possibly to a minimal damage . Such ceremonial posts carrying huge administrative experience must be seen as proactively dealing with contingent situations like a communal riot , directing the police to douse the communal flames , particularly when a high profile foreign dignitary was visiting the country . Such absence at critical moments  are hard  to ignore.

Also , some degree of accountability needs to be fixed for those police officers who had erred and didn’t act or prevent the tragic happenings . The just retired Commissioner Police , Delhi is widely thought to be inactive in taking control of the situation to ensure that the force under him could react and act but on the contrary ,  they seemed clueless . Such a scene was witnessed last year too during the standoff with the lawyers and a couple of other unpleasant and avoidable situations . As he continued even after the series of ‘lapses’, he couldn’t prove his mettle at the time of a serious situation like the communal riots . Sadly , his unceremonious exit will haunt him for many years to come . He was otherwise known to be an officer and a gentleman and of  impeccable integrity .

A new CP has now been appointed . His first task is to lift up the morale of the demoralised force injecting adequate motivation . He should lead from the front and from now . Simultaneously , he should meet the residents of the riot affected areas , undertake a fresh appraisal winning their confidence . This should be on priority to instil a sense of safety irrespective of communities . His actions should be seen as impartial . This said , police needs to be ruthless on those provoking and abetting riots or giving inflammatory speeches . An iron hand is the answer to the miscreants and its long overdue to prevent any such recurrence in future . The challenge is huge but can’t be shelved aside .

The riot stricken residents have had traumatic experience of five continuous days. It’s time to bring them out of trauma . The 123 FIRs that have been filed need to be investigated very fast and action proceeded against the 630 those arrested . Such actions will prove deterrent . This is one of the tasks on CPs plate.

Lastly , the hostile neighbour of ours is unlikely to  lose any opportunity to fish in the troubled waters . Hence , counter intelligence outfits must work overtime to foil any Pakistani ISI attempts to foment communal trouble and embark on ’ recruiting ‘ agents to meet their nefarious recruitments.

Need of the hour is communal harmony and the new CP Delhi and members of his force can bounce back as Delhi has a glorious chapter behind dealing with many serious situations effectively . The mantra seems to be nothing but acting as professionals.

Shantanu Mukharji is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. The views expressed are personal.

Leave a Reply