The Telegraph
Friday , November 9 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Vigilantes in aid of police

Howrah police are now seeking the co-operation of vigilante groups like the Village Resistance Groups, called RG parties, to maintain law and order in the districts. These vigilante groups, comprising local youths in the villages, were raised by the police themselves in order to prevent crimes like robberies and burglaries in remote areas, where the police cannot reach quickly. These groups were active in every village. However, today, their numbers have dwindled as the youth are reluctant to join RG parties. The police are again trying to motivate them to join these vigilante groups by promising to work with them in close co-operation.

This has elicited a good response from the RG parties across rural areas as more than 650 representatives from nearly 325 RG parties under 11 police stations of rural Howrah participated in a training programme held in Domjur’s Kabita Bhavan on September 22. The programme was attended by Mihir Bhattacharya, IG, South Bengal, Bharatlal Mina, superintendent of police, Howrah (rural), Shyamal Kumar Samanta, sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Uluberia and Madhusudan Banerjee, IC, Domjur police station, “The role of RG parties should not be restricted to guarding the villages at night only. Instead, they should help the police in maintaining law and order. Community policing will be more effective with the active co-operation of resistance groups,” said Mihir Bhattacharya, IG, South Bengal, while addressing the gathering.

He wanted the RG parties to help the police during crises. “Sometimes, angry villagers attack policemen after they reach accident spots or murder scenes. In such situations, the local RG party members should take the initiative to calm down the people and persuade them to allow the police do their work,” he said.

According to a senior police officer of Domjur police station, the idea of working in close co-operation with the resistance groups was first conceived when members of an RG party at Andul helped in arresting three youths, who were found molesting a minor mentally-challenged girl. “The incident took place a couple of months back. The members of Mouri Talpukur Dhar RG party noticed three youths trying to drag a girl to a bush while they were guarding the village at night. They immediately informed us and we managed to arrest one of the youths,” said the officer.

He said that initially the members of the RG party were reluctant to file a complaint on behalf of the girl but the police persuaded them. “If they had not filed the complaint, we would have had to let the youth go in the absence of witnesses since the mentally challenged girl could not file a complaint on her own,” said the officer.

Howrah rural police want to activate the resistance groups along the national highway not only for controlling law and order but also for reaching accident spots and helping the police in taking the injured to hospitals.

Since the members of the resistance groups are from the local area, they can inform the police first and reach the accident spots quickly,” said a police officer of Uluberia police station, who was on duty near NH6, when 17 passengers of a bus died after a head-on collision near Mahisrekha Bridge in Bagnan in 2010.

The police officer said that when he reached the accident spot he found no one to take the injured passengers to the hospital. An officer of Domjur police station went through the same experience a few months back when a Tata Sumo, carrying eight call centre employees, was badly mangled after hitting a divider. Six of the employees died on the spot. “On reaching the accident spot, I found bodies of the youths scattered on the road. There was hardly any one to take the injured to the hospital,” said the officer.

There are around 30 resistance groups active along the stretch of NH6 from Nibra to Bagnan who can play an important role in rescuing accident victims and taking them to hospitals. Each resistance group consists of at least 60 youths.

“We have already instructed the groups along the NH6 to keep a watch on the highway during night and rush to accident spots to help the police,” said Prabir Chatterjee, president, Howrah Rural District RG Party. Chatterjee, however, thinks that the members of the resistance groups should be given some incentive to work. “At least, home guards should be recruited from members of the resistance groups,” he said.

The role of the RG parties, however, is restricted to informing the police of incidents of crime. The police have asked them not to take law and order into their hands. They were also asked to help out the elderly or helpless people in need. “The number of elderly people living alone is rising. RG parties should inform the police if any elderly person falls ills and needs medical attention,” said Bhattacharya.