Time to train India’s police in riot control

May 26, 2008

Time and time again, India’s police react to riots by using live ammunition and protesters are killed. Occasionally there is a public outcry, as there was after deaths in Kalinganagar and Nandigram, yet seldom can I remember officers being dismissed or prosecuted.Ethnic Gujjars sit near the bodies of those who died during clashes with the police at Bayana village, in Bharatpur district in India’s desert state of Rajasthan May 24, 2008. Thousands of agitators from the Gujjar community organised a stoppage of train services to press for their demand for Scheduled Tribe status, which will entitle them to government jobs and college seats. REUTERS/Vinay Joshi (INDIA)In Rajasthan over the past few days, the police appear to have shot and killed more than 30 rioting Gujjars . True, their provocation may have been extreme — one policeman lynched, another police station attacked.

But was the death of so many, apparently unarmed, people really necessary?

A judicial inquiry has been ordered and I look forward to its conclusions.

In the meantime, I wonder if it is time the Indian government spent some time and some money in training its own police in how to quell unruly mobs without having to kill people.


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what police?!

Posted by Anil | Report as abusive

Crime(/ lack of law) and illiteracy(/ lack of empowerment) certainly are proving to be the biggest hindrance in India’s development. Poverty and low standard of living seem to be by products. Sure, someone would have the good sense to address these social structural issues more than any economic reforms. Hopefully, good sense and better judgement will prevail.

Posted by Bhupender | Report as abusive

I could not agree more. The police have killed thousands of people for years in India through police firing. A majority of those killed belong to the lower caste or minority communities–the Gujjars the latest victims.

Why this reliance on live bullets and shooting in the chest, rather than go for plastic bullets or pellets which are widely available? And why not shoot at the legs?

It seems that this is a deliberate policy: to keep the marginal and dispossessed groups in the country under check. And, yet on the other hand, the same police is sickeningly obsequious of their political masters.

I disagree with Simon on one point when he says the Gujjar provocation was extreme. Yes, it might have been in this case but policemen in India are always ready to fire on protestors from marginalised communities, with minimal provocation. I think among all the major countries in the world, the Indian police has the worst record in terms of firing on crowds.
What a shame.

Posted by Syed Mansoor | Report as abusive

This is bound to happen anyway.
Police is just a part of our society and i am not surprised. doesnot one see people been beaten by a mob. In most of the cases no one objects and worse no one tries to find out why is it beig done.we indians have grown cold blooded over the years, and the current scenario is a case in point, still its not an issue large enough for the nation to take notice and protest.Also i found the agitation in rajasthan baseless in this new found race to the bottom of the pyramid.

Posted by rahul | Report as abusive

Yes, This is right time when Indian police should learn how to control mobs with out killing them. Unruly mob should not be equalise with the terrorists. Today we are in the world where much better ways to deal are well known at very affordable cost. This is primarily the attitude of our police which has to be cured / treated. They think life of people is cheap. Is it really so? I am sure every body will say ‘No’ .

Posted by Kaushlendra | Report as abusive

When the mob gets mad it is very difficult to control it we all know that.
Given the history of our politics of vote bank the sentiments are always very high be it political riots or communal riots.
Now given the state of our law and order do you think there is any option for police or any one.

If police did not take action the thing could have gotten to a point where two or more tribes will begin to fight and ultimately lives would have been lost but it might have been on much larger scale.

Once two sections start to fight it does not die down for years to come and always flare up given a chance either by political exploitation or otherwise.

I am not justifying killings but more often than not firing on mob is the last resort and has to be used.

Posted by Vikas Saxena | Report as abusive

Agreed that the police has never been able to understand the correct way with which they need to handle protests. They have shot and killed protesters without any regard for human life. Accountability is also low with officers who actually allow such acts to be perperated. Police needs to be trained and told do use just enough force to get the situation under control and not try to put the fear of gun into protesters.

But is the Police the only one to blame here. We Indians and Left parties in particular have made it an art to protest. Even though my sympathy is with Gujjars and their cause for OBS quota, the crores of losses is not something that makes me feel good either. Govt should enact tougher regualtions on people to how a protest needs to be organised. Burning public transportaions and dirupting train sevices is just eventually hurting all of us. Maybe we need to get the judge back who had made it illegal in calcutta for anyone to protest and hang up the traffic.(Forgot the judges name)

Posted by upinder | Report as abusive