On 12 August, seven-year-old Juni Kumari was found missing from her home in the village of Ghagni in the state of Bihar, India. On 15 August, her body was found abandoned in a sugarcane field near her village. Juni’s mother recovered the girl’s body. Her head had been shaven and sandalwood paste applied to her forehead. Finding that her daughter had been murdered, she approached the local police to file a complaint. The police investigation revealed that the girl was a victim of a human sacrifice conducted by some Hindu priests in the village. One priest, a prime suspect in the case, was reportedly arrested by the police.
On August 17, in Ahmadabad district of Gujarat state, the Muslim and the Hindu communities started an armed riot. The issue was a petty one having to do with a religious procession passing near a Muslim school. The police had to resort to firing their weapons in order to disperse the unruly mob. In just a matter of hours, they had destroyed building properties and looted businesses.
On July 23, in an incident of fake encounter, an innocent civilian was shot dead inside a medical store in Imphal, the capital city of Manipur state. The Manipur State Police Commando Unit, in the same incident, opened fire on passersby, killing a woman, seven-months pregnant and seriously injuring five other civilians.
This was an extremely savage incident. Later on the same day, in the state legislative assembly, the Chief Minister of Manipur, informed the state and his fellow legislators that terrorism can only be controlled through stern police action. By this statement, he not only justified the irresponsible police action, but also further declared two innocent civilians terrorists. The deceased as well as their family members failed to receive even the minimum decency of an apology.
The statement of the Chief Minister served the singular purpose of making public the government’s position. There would be no investigation into the incident. The statement carried with it the high detrimental quotient to anyone who wished to protest against the murders. In Manipur, one of the most militarised states in the country, such a public remark by the Chief Minister is enough to silence any protest. Yet, contrary to the Minister’s expectations, the people rallied in protest, literally paralysing the state for days. The protest is still going on.
On August 15, the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in an address to the nation said, “terrorism and infiltration through the boarder, sponsored by neighbouring countries, is the greatest threat the nation faces.” Dr. Singh was delivering his address to the nation on the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence.
External threats have been and will remain a menace to India’s internal security. However, such threats are not unique to India or for that matter to any particular country. Threats, from outside a nation’s boarder, gain importance when its internal stability is weak. This has been proven repeatedly in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and most recently, in Mumbai.
The biggest threat to India’s internal security is its own law enforcement agencies. The atrocious acts involving violation of duty and law, like that was reported from Imphal, have isolated the law enforcement agencies in the country from the people. A law enforcement agency that lacks the support and confidence of the people neither can enforce the law nor can be of any help to the people.
As of now, there is no legislative or normative framework in the country that fastens the basic components of law enforcement upon the law enforcement agencies. For instance, accountability and openness are two basic administrative elements that are unheard of within the law enforcement agencies in India. Officers are notorious for corruption and use of arbitrary force than for solving crime.
The use of torture and the practice of extra judicial execution are rampant in the country that the term ‘law enforcement’ has become a misnomer to refer to these agencies in India. Even human rights defenders in the country face such threats at the hands of the law enforcement agencies. For instance, there is a considerable amount of threat faced by human rights defenders in India, particularly in the state of Manipur.
Special units of the state police the paramilitary units stationed in various parts of the country constantly bully and threaten human rights activists working under their jurisdiction. For this very reason reporting human rights violations from India has increasingly become a risky job.Neither the politicians, like Dr. Singh, nor other policy makers in the country are interested in addressing the issues that affects law enforcement in India. There are no attempts to prevent, or at the minimum reduce, the violence committed by law enforcement agencies in the country.
Indians are yet to hear a politician in the country speaking about reforms to the existing system. There is no healthy discussion in the country about eliminating torture or bringing accountability to the actions of the country’s law enforcement agencies. Instead, the rhetoric is about threats from outside the country. This empty speech has to be understood as only a political attempt to justify the use of violence and continue allowing impunity to the state agencies, particularly to the police and paramilitary units.