In the Carnival of Democracy, mirrors are a thing. Never faithful to true dimensions, they delight in dissimulation—some exaggerate reflections while others shrink them.
The simulacrum of law and order does both. It amplifies khaki as the omnipotent agent of fear among the general population.
It dwindles in the eyes of the powerful: both officials and criminals. However, last week Gujarat policewoman Sunita Yadav held up the mirror.
She stood up to power by honouring her uniform and paid the price.
Abandoned, threatened and persecuted by the very senior officers who are supposed to stand by her for prosecuting a minister’s son, she was transferred as expected. India was outraged. The state government was forced to arrest the political scion.
It’s obvious the orders came from Delhi; without Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention, the state wouldn’t have acted against the minister’s progeny and vindicated the power of khaki.
Sunita now plans to sit for the Civil Services exam and become an IPS officer to protect constables like her.
The same week, the mirror cracked in Uttar Pradesh. Informers in khaki in the pay of a gang lord were arrested for their role in the murders of eight colleagues.
The subsequent arrests of cops who had colluded with a powerful, politically connected mafia don exposed the deep stains on police uniform; the polar opposite of what Sunita Yadav did to honour hers.
Rivers have been cried over the self-serving nexus between politicians, criminals and the police that it would make citizens more comatose than Valium can.
The Indian Police Service, which was started by British officers in the 1800s, was conceived as colonial muscle to collect taxes. The policemen weren’t paid salaries.
Their sustenance came from zamindars or from ordinary people they extorted money from. This legacy of subservience to the rich and powerful, and oppression of the poor continues.
Those who make history have to negate history to write history. Civil Rights activists insist that the law, however flawed, must be obeyed and that encounter killings are murder by official sanction, which reeks of political authoritarianism.
To roll back centuries of venal habit cannot be done without spilling lawless blood. Encounter killings decimated the Mumbai underworld in the 1980s.
Now it’s the turn of the heartland’s criminals. Encounters are democracy’s tough love, which returns the pride the provincial judiciary and the police had, when they started out as junior officers like Sunita Yadav.
She represents a young generation of law enforcement officers who are willing to take on the system. The political will to go ahead with both vengeance and approval is the best tool to empower them.Sunita’s exoneration should please the conscience keepers.
They’ll also have to resolve the conundrum that it’s the authoritarian forces, which saved her. Democracy is the art of reconciling opposites. Perhaps the mirror doesn’t lie after all.