| Positive action
New Delhi, Aug. 30: In the wake of the Assam riots, the Centre has asked all state governments to deploy more Muslim policemen in minority-concentrated areas to help the force control communal violence and other volatile situations without being accused of partiality.
The advisory was sent to all states last week after a meeting of officials of the minority affairs ministry, home ministry and department of personnel and training on the situation in Assam.
Wajahat Habibullah, chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, said the move would certainly help better management of communal violence and post-riot situations.
Former Mumbai commissioner and counter-militancy expert Julio Ribeiro said training must begin at the National Police Academy at Hyderabad. He suggested in-house courses at the state and district levels to inculcate values of impartiality and justice irrespective of caste and religion. He observed that Muslim policemen were limited as young Muslim boys were reluctant to join the force.
However, former Assam director-general of police Hare Krishna Deka felt the move was not a good idea and would introduce a communal angle into the force. “It is nothing but a move to introduce a communal angle into a force which should function impartially,” he said.
Sarat Mahanta, who had served as member of Assam Human Rights Commission (2003-2007) also said the move might disturb the secular face of the police force.
“As a sensible citizen, I feel police personnel should be deployed in equal or proper proportion, belonging to different communities or religion. If we deploy policemen of a particular religion in a particular area, it may disturb our secular fabric,” he said.
The National Commission for Minorities is preparing a manual to be sent to Sardar Vallabbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad, an apex institute for training of IPS officers. Habibullah said the manual would comprise guidelines for policemen on how to deal with minorities in riot-like situations. Once the manual is ready, he said, state governments would be asked to include it in their training module.
Early this year, the home ministry had asked all the states to post at least one Muslim sub-inspector in police stations in minority-concentrated areas.
The Sachar Committee report had also highlighted the dismal representation of Muslims in the police force and recommended that deployment of Muslims cops would go a long way in building the community’s confidence. After the report the government had sought to make the force more representative.
“We asked the chief secretaries of all the states to send a status report but many states failed to implement it. Policing is a state subject and the Centre can only ask the state governments. It cannot force them to implement it. We keep reminding them about it,” a home ministry official said.
West Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan, who is a former national security adviser, had agreed in a conference in March this year that there was a need to minimise trust deficit by recruiting more minorities into the police.
Habibullah said the police had acted in a “partisan” manner when a clash broke out between Gujjars and Muslims over a land-related dispute in Bharatpur, Rajasthan in September last year.
Andhra Pradesh is the only state with a higher percentage of Muslims in police (15 per cent) than in the population (10).
The other states with over 10 per cent Muslim representation in police are Jammu & Kashmir (57 per cent), Kerala (14) and Assam (12).