When law & order becomes a monopoly

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.

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