With news reports focusing on Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board (UPPRPB) announcements for the next round of recruitments - where it is said to be recruiting for the posts of constable, fireman, and jail warder - there are 51,216 vacancies for Constable, 1924 vacancies for Fireman, and 3638 vacancies for Jail Warder, I am sitting pondering on the very relevant basics to the diversity factor, rather the lack of it, in the police force.
It is a known fact that the percentage of Muslims in the IPS is low as compared to the population. And if one were to focus on the Agencies and the police force and paramilitary, then another dismal reality stares hard. During an interview given to me in January 2010, ( just months before his death), Omar Khalidi had detailed - "Most of the intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces of India do not mirror the diversity of the national population.” Khalidi, who was then attached to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and had been writing extensively on the social and economic profile of Muslims in India, had also focused on the fact that Muslims were better represented during the colonial rule and that their representation in Independent India was dismal. He was categorical in stating that “the minorities were better represented in the colonial army and police than today… Intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces in India do not mirror the diversity of the national population … Assam Rifles, India's oldest paramilitary force is composed primarily of Gurkhas - both foreign Nepalis and domiciled ; though Assam is nearly 30 percent Muslims, few Muslims are found in the Assam Rifles.”
He also drew contrasts between the police composition in colonial India and the changes that were made to come about after Independence- "The division of British India in mid - 1947 and the abolition of the Princely States heralded major changes in the composition, though not in the organization of the Police. On 30 June 1947 the Indian Police consisted of 516 officers, including 323 Europeans,63 Muslims and 130 Hindus and others. The overwhelming majority of the British officers opted for retirement and compensation for loss of career and practically all the Muslim officers opted for Pakistan. The police officers of Punjab and Bengal were to be divided on communal lines. The Punjab Police had a total strength of 35,457 at the beginning of 1947.East Punjab was left with only 30% thereof on 15 August. The Hindu officers and men in the N.W.E.P and in the Sind Police were allowed to migrate to India. In the remaining provinces a large number of Muslims from the ranks of the Dy.S P (Deputy Superintendent of Police) to constable were likewise allowed to migrate to Pakistan. This resulted in a serious depletion of the police in all northern princely states of India,and to a lesser extent in Bombay, Madras , CP and Orissa."
Khalidi had also commented that the discrimination of keeping Muslims out of the police force wasn’t a very recent one but taken years back , "When on the recommendation of the National Integration Council ( NIC ) in 1969, the Home Minister YB Chavan merely broached the idea of recruiting Muslims in the police force , the Bharatiya Jana Sangh ( BJS ),the precursor of the Bharatiya Janta party ( BJP ) opposed it as 'an invitation to disaster.' "
Commenting on the ethnic and religious composition of the security forces in India, Khalidi had detailed - “There is a clear and consistent pattern of recruitment in the army. The army’s infantry regiments are still recruited in states and areas with “martial races”, i.e. in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and western UP. These so called “martial races” are Hindu, Sikh and Gorkha. There are very few Muslims among the jawans and still fewer among the officers. Officers are fewer partly because Muslims’ educational level, and thus the ability to compete in the UPSC examination, is poor. Dalits are also conspicuous by their absence. Christians are well represented in the officer class. The Rapid Action Force of the CRPF has a good representation of Muslims. The composition of police is also somewhat similar. There are far fewer Muslim police officers, and within that a tiny number of IPS officers.”
To quote from his book – 'Khaki and the Ethnic Violence in India' (Three Essays Collective) “Consonant with the general pattern nationwide , there are only a few Muslims in the Gujarat Police…6.2 percent of the total according to VN Rai .It is estimated that out of the several hundred state police officers a mere 65 are Muslims. Only one such officer RK Qadiri became an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Ahmedabad. Of the 136 IPS officers , a mere five are Muslim, according to the National Police Academy.”
I had also asked Khalidi on the way -out from this and he was quick to point out two crucial rectifiers - “Since Muslims are not well represented in the IPS, there is every justification for reservation for them. Simultaneously, there ought to be widespread coaching for minorities to compete successfully in the UPSC examination.”
The absolutely low percentage of Muslims in the police force of the country continues to this day. Needless to add that it is a worrying trend. The political rulers of the day cannot talk of diversity in the actual sense of the term if there is a near absence of men and women from the minority communities in the police force.
Not just coaching centres should come up but pressure has to be build up and kept going for sheer transparency at the recruitment levels. We ought to be told details of those rejected, on what grounds they failed the tests. Together with that, lists of those recruited on the police force and the relevant backgrounders to them should also be provided. We ought to know who is policing us! Who all will be policing us in the near future! After all, there are apprehensions and fears of Right- Wing politics and policies making intrusions into every possible sphere.