- Ruben Banerjee, HT
Chhattisgarh’s inspector-general of police SRP Kalluri is once again in the news, and like before, it’s for the wrong reasons. The controversial officer in charge of Bastar’s insurgency-ridden six districts threatened HT’s Raipur-based reporter for having the temerity to question him over academic Nandini Sundar’s alleged involvement in a recent murder in the region.
The police case against Sundar is palpably flimsy and has triggered nationwide outrage . The murdered tribal man’s widow has denied naming Sundar, who was nowhere in Chhattisgarh during the killing. The last time the Delhi University professor and author visited the region was in May in her capacity as a rights activist and had advised the locals to stay clear of both the police and Maoists.
Activists have slammed the police for their unabashed abuse of power. But, however shameful, the excesses by the Chhattisgarh police are not surprising. They have gone on for too long and too many people have been at their receiving end. The trumped up cases and the threats do shake us up, but no more startle us.
But what definitely hurts is our collective incapacity to checkmate the rampaging police of Bastar. Every time they abused the system and wronged a person, the civil society reacted angrily, took to the streets, launched signature campaigns and knocked the doors of the judiciary. The courts too have censured the police, but ultimately the law enforcers have shown us their thumb.
Last month, they even burned on the streets of Bastar the effigies of rights activists critical of them.
Their brazenness should be food for thought. Where do they draw their strength from? Who protects them? How do they get away with what they do?
Even Chhattisgarh’s chief minister Raman Singh seems incapable of reining in the forces. The regular violations are a PR disaster for the career-politician concerned about his image. Following a spate of arrests of journalists last year, he cracked the whip and curtailed the powers of the police by stipulating that they would have to seek prior approval of a committee before throwing a media person behind bars.
This small mercy apart, Singh hasn’t succeeded in helping his cause.
But we have reasons to be concerned. The impunity of the Bastar police holds up the mirror to our collective impotency. India needs to ponder over what can be done differently to stand up to a force that wants us broken.