India Insight

Mumbai police look to Bollywood for image makeover

Mumbai’s police department has deployed an unusual strategy to revamp its sagging reputation and to counter criticism that it hasn’t done a good job at solving crimes against women in the city – it called the biggest game in town and asked for help.

Top city police officers, including the police commissioner, have asked Bollywood producers, directors and writers to portray them in a more positive light than they usually do.

While films like “Ardh Satya” spoke of the pressures and frustrations of policemen, many mainstream films, which have the most reach, aren’t kind to the force. The police also have asked the studios to change how they portray the women in their films, hoping that this would cause men to behave better toward women.

The Mumbai police are much admired – and maligned. People admire how the cops have quashed the underworld that once flourished in the city, but criticized them for not being able to curb crime against women (Mumbai has the second-highest number of rapes in India after Delhi) or corruption in real estate.

Bollywood’s portrayal of policemen, either as pot-bellied, inefficient buffoons, or as angry young men out to play the role of the vigilante is doing them a disservice, they say. In the 2011 film “Singham” Ajay Devgn played an honest police officer who, along with his fellow officers, murders a corrupt politician. The film was one of the biggest hits of the year.

Updated: Delhi police helpline: if your stalking case is not urgent, please press 1

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

Citizens First: those are the two words at the top of the Delhi Police department’s website. An alternative could be: “first come, first served.”

I called the stalker line after receiving some text messages and telephone calls that made me feel unsafe. The upshot: a dispatcher routed my call to three police stations, none of which have a record of the complaint. Furthermore, it will take several days to get back to me with the results of any investigation. This is happening when the police are under intense criticism for not doing enough to prevent rape, harassment and assault, not to mention reports of their views on women. This latest incident was not an inspiring episode.

Delhi police rightly targeted in gang rape case – Kiran Bedi

The gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi that sparked public outrage across the country has also put the spotlight on policing in India’s “rape capital”.

Kiran Bedi, a former police officer who won the Ramon Magsaysay award in 1994 for her work in the city, says the Dec. 16 gang rape could have been prevented.

Bedi told Reuters in an email interview that a crime prevention plan and effective police training could help turn things around in New Delhi.

Delhi rape case and the need to revamp policing

“My father has called me 15 times since yesterday,” a colleague told me today as New Delhi recovers from the shock of a woman being assaulted, gang-raped and thrown off a bus on Sunday night.

There were more comments from women on my Facebook feed: “It is a scary thought to go out for dinner at 9:15 pm”; “Men on Delhi streets can literally rape you with words … met one giggling a** just now. Felt like picking a stone and hitting it right where it all starts from …”

These comments made me think. Never had we discussed a rape case so vehemently in office; never before has a rape case moved me personally. Why? Perhaps, we are immune to such headlines in newspapers and used to the way things are.

Should K.P.S. Gill be stripped of his medals?

Media reports saying that the central government may take away the medals of police officers convicted of crimes have had an unexpected impact.

A policeman holds a submachine gun during a function in Mumbai August 27, 2009. REUTERS/Arko DattaThis puts former Punjab DGP and “super cop” Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (better known as K.P.S. Gill) in the same dock as S.P.S. Rathore, the former Haryana police chief convicted of molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra.

Is such a step justified?

Gill, convicted in 1996 for misbehaving with an IAS officer, has said it is not right to strip officers of medals with retrospective effect. The former DGP also said he won’t be bothered if his medals are taken away.

Ruchika case: Easy on the policeman?

Ruchika Girhotra, a 14-year-old tennis player, was molested by then Haryana police IG S.P.S. Rathore in Panchkula in 1990.

Three years later, Ruchika killed herself, which her friend and case witness Aradhana attributes to the harassment of Ruchika and her family by those in power.

Nineteen years later, Rathore walks away with six months of rigorous imprisonment and a 1000-rupee fine, reportedly due to his old age and the “prolonged trial”.

Does India need its army to tackle the Maoists?

I have been noticing a debate in newspapers and television channels about the need to call in the army to tackle the Maoists and wonder whether it is indeed time to turn towards them before the movement spirals out of control.

Last week, hundreds of Maoists, who are expanding their influence in India, chased away police from a tribal area based around the town of Lalgarh about 170 km (100 miles) from Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.

By attacking Lalgarh and then keeping the police at bay for four days, the Maoists demonstrated their growing influence over poor villagers and their capability to strike close to a big city like Kolkata.

Army vs police: who should maintain law-and-order?

The peacetime activities of an armed force have a bearing on its wartime capabilities and its relations with the civil society.

Although it has been the stated government policy for at least a decade to use the defence forces as sparingly as possible the Indian army has been continually engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.

“Excessive and continuous involvement of the Army for internal security is not good, neither for the Army nor for the nation,” former army chief Ved Prakash Malik said four years ago.

Why does Mahendra Singh Dhoni need a gun?

Two images have seared themselves into my mind. The first is the brutal treatment meted out to a young girl working as a domestic maid in Gurgaon. I didn’t really know what beaten black-and-blue meant. Until I saw her photograph.

The other image was even more nauseating by virtue of being captured on video. Students armed with sticks rained blows on other students in Tamil Nadu as the police merely looked on.

Violence in domestic and student life is not something new. But what hit me was the nonchalance of the police — it was so in contrast with my own wincing reaction I could not shrug the image off.

Anger, agreement at Muslim leaders gathering

jama.jpgSecurity was tight at the entrance to Gate No. 7 of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi, a 17th century mosque built by Mughal kings, and the venue on Tuesday for a gathering of Muslim leaders from across the country to debate the persecution of Muslims.

Police shooed away fruit vendors and cycle rickshaws spilling over from the crowded market nearby, while others stood around the metal detectors at the entrance while their colleagues cased out the giant white shamiana inside with sniffer dogs under the slowly revolving ceiling fans.

 A full half hour after the scheduled time, when only the first few rows of seats were occupied, Maulana Naksh Bandi of the Jama Masjid began the proceedings, inviting various leaders to the dais, and declaring in Urdu: “there is no law, there is no justice for us. It is the rule of the jungle.”

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