Where prejudice is crime -Vrinda Grover
-The Indian Express
Hashimpura verdict highlights the bias within police against religious minorities.
It is a chilling coincidence that on October 31, a date that marks the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 and the unleashing of state-engineered violence against the Sikhs, the Delhi High Court held 16 policemen of the 41st Battalion of UP Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) guilty of “the targeted killing by armed forces of the unarmed, innocent and defenceless members of a particular community”.
The HC judgment makes a significant jurisprudential advance by foregrounding this not as a case of indiscriminate firing by a trigger-happy police force, but rather locating the motive for the cold-blooded murders in the Muslim identity of the victims. “A disturbing aspect of the present case is the targeted killings of persons belonging to one minority community… This was a case of targeted killing revealing an institutional bias within the law enforcement agents in this case,” the court said.
Despite mounting evidence and experiences, for too long there has been a silence and denial about the structural and systemic nature of the prejudice within law enforcement agencies against religious minorities. This is most starkly manifest in police (in)action during the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage, Gujarat 2002 attack on Muslims, the 2008 anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal, the malafide investigations of the Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts, the tardy probes in the lynching cases, to name a few. There is an urgent need to acknowledge that institutional bias, as identified by Lord MacPherson in 1999, in the context of racism in UK, is embedded in the police force.
In 2013, the report of a committee comprising of DGPs of three states notes: “Minorities view police as being communal and allege that they deal with situations involving two communities in a partisan manner favouring the majority community.” Further that “unfortunately for police, demeanour of some police officers and men in several serious communal riots in recent and not so recent past has served to strengthen such beliefs”. A 2018 report of Centre for Study of Developing Societies and Common Cause — Status of Policing in India Report, 2018: A Study of Performance and Perceptions — based on a survey of 22 states, found that about 64 per cent of Indian Muslims interviewed are either “highly” or “somewhat” fearful of the police as they fear false implication and have a perception that the police discriminates on the basis of religion.
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