Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government says do. Calcutta Police says don’t.
Following the rash of recent robberies, the police have on a website advised citizens not to put up a fight in case of a hold-up and sacrifice one’s life, but to hand over his or her possessions. The government, on the other hand, counsels resistance.
Citizens are bound to be confused by these contradictory signals, and what started it all is the list of safety tips provided by Calcutta Police on www.kolkatapolice.org.
“If anyone tries to rob you, give up your properties; don’t give up your life,” advised the police. The government, which, apparently, has no knowledge of these police tips, described some of these as unreal.
“Do not take these injunctions seriously,” says home secretary Amit Kiran Deb. “If you are being held up, and you happen to be in a fairly crowded place, do scream, scratch, kick or throw punches to fight the robbers. I have known incidents where robbers have either fled or were caught because of unexpected resistance from intended victims.”
Police officers said the safety tips were developed for the first time in view of the increasing number of robberies, many of which, investigations revealed, could have been prevented had the victims followed certain basic rules.
Posted under the title Personal Safety Basics, these are tips on how citizens should walk on the streets.
“I am amazed at the advice, it does not relate to reality. It is the primary and basic duty of police to ensure security of the life and property of the citizens,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, over the telephone from Brisbane, where he has gone on an official visit.
“By giving such silly and cowardly suggestions, the police have admitted their failure in rendering basic security to Calcuttans,” he said.
Subhas Dutta, environmentalist, found no logic behind such suggestions. “If police feel this way, society does not need them,” he said.
The police tips come into conflict not only with the chief minister’s words but they contradict the police commissioner’s oft-made calls for resistance and bravery as well.
City police hand out individual (not only for policemen but for ordinary citizens, too) bravery awards every year.
“This award is for encouraging people to resist criminal activities. The suggestion not to resist criminals should have been more specific. We should have mentioned under what circumstances people should give up their properties, instead of trying to resist,” admitted a senior officer.
He added: “We have seen from experience that a number of criminals were caught only because the victims raised a hue and cry.”
The police safety tips are:
Wherever you are, stay alert, calm and confident.
If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid it.
Don’t use alleys, shortcuts or dark places.
Know the neighbourhood where you live and work.
Check out locations of police and fire stations, public phones, hospitals.
If someone is harassing you, look around for help.
Carry proof of identity.