Security personnel in Assam during the violence. File picture
New Delhi, Aug. 30: The Centre has repeated its request to all states to deploy more Muslim policemen in areas with large minority populations following the Assam violence.
The government believes this would help the police control communal violence and other volatile situations without being accused of partiality.
Union home ministry officials said this was a request the Centre kept sending periodically but often to little avail “because policing is a state subject”.
Even the Sachar committee had said deployment of more Muslim policemen would go a long way in building confidence among the community.
“It is also part of the 15-point programme the Prime Minister announced for the development of minorities,” National Commission for Minorities chairperson Wajahat Habibullah said.
The advisory was sent to the states after a meeting last week between officials of the minority affairs ministry, home ministry and the department of personnel and training, who assessed the situation in Assam.
“Everybody at the meeting decided that deployment of more Muslim policemen in minority-concentration areas would ensure the force does not act on religious lines,” a senior minority affairs official said.
Habibullah welcomed the move saying it would help better management of communal violence and post-riot situations. “We have seen how police have often been partisan during past riots,” he said.
Asked how communal bias in the police could be reduced, former Mumbai police commissioner and counter-militancy star Julio Ribeiro said the effort must begin at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad where IPS officers are trained.
“We can also have in-house courses at the state and district levels to inculcate such values which breed impartiality and a sense of justice irrespective of caste and religion,” he said in an email reply to The Telegraph.
“To deploy more Muslim policemen anywhere is not easy at present because the number of such policemen is limited. For some reason, young Muslim boys are reluctant to offer themselves for recruitment. I have myself experienced this.”
He added: “In Mumbai city, we have gone out of the way to recruit young men from the minority communities but with very limited success. The reasons could be that the community distrusts the police or feels that they may not get a fair deal if and when they are recruited. Perhaps there should be a dialogue between local Muslim leaders and the police leadership to dispel such doubts.”
The minority commission is preparing a manual that it will send to the Hyderabad academy. “It will have guidelines for policemen on how to deal with minorities in violent and riot-like situations. It is an attempt to sensitise the (police) about communal issues right from training stage,” Habibullah said.
“Once the manual is ready, we shall take the matter up with state governments too and ask them to include it in their training module at their police training centres.”
Earlier this year, the home ministry had written to the states asking them to post at least one Muslim sub-inspector at police stations in areas with sizeable Muslim populations.
“We sent a note to all the state chief secretaries asking for status reports. Many of the states have failed to implement it. Policing is a state subject and the Centre can only ask; it cannot force them to accept it. We keep reminding them about it,” a home ministry official said.
At a conference organised by the minority commission in March, Bengal governor and former national security adviser M.K. Naraynan had accepted the need to minimise the trust deficit by recruiting more minority members to the police.
Habibullah cited how police had acted in a “partisan” manner during a land clash between Gujjars and Muslims in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, last September. Nine Muslims were killed in police firing.
After a tour of Bharatpur, commission officials accused the police of acting in a “clearly partisan” manner and using “excessive” force. Their report alleged that some “Hindutva elements goaded the local administration to go for aggressive action”.
Andhra Pradesh is the only state with a higher percentage of Muslims in the police (15) than in the population (10). The other states with over 10 per cent Muslim representation in their police are Jammu and Kashmir (57 per cent), Kerala (14) and Assam (12).
The states with the lowest figures are Tamil Nadu (2), Delhi (3), Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra (5 each).