Goa has just commemorated its 57 years of Liberation from the tyrannical and brutal regime of Salazar. With the rampant all round destruction and the most recent news about police brutalities on two Goan youth in South Goa, Goans are probably still guessing what that liberation was all about. When Goa is sold to the world as a tourist destination with a ‘sosegado’ culture and in contrast to other States of India, the high visibility of policemen in uniform at public places is a glaring contradiction. And if at all this quantum of police deployment in Goa is justified, then there is a need to understand as to what went wrong in Goa after the 19th of December 1961.
The post-liberation local ‘Police Thana’ (police station) has never been a friendly place for a common Goan, particularly those belonging to the backward class and minority communities. The absolute lack of professionalism and civility in dealing with citizens is simply glaring. Complaints in the police stations are imposingly and deliberately registered in Marathi or, if insisted upon, reluctantly in grammatically flawed English. Goa’s post-liberation police do not enjoy an unblemished record when it comes to custodial deaths and use of indiscriminate force against ordinary citizens in custody. The custodial deaths of Abdul Gaffar Khan and Cypriano Fernandes may have got sensationalised, but several other human rights violations have got a silent burial. An incident of police brutality such as that, over two decades ago, involving a student activist arrested, beaten and made to run naked on the Goa University campus on a rainy midnight followed by the police jeep with lights beaming on him may have faded from Goan memory. The only provocation was that the activist during an ongoing student agitation had challenged a Police Inspector to arrest him. It’s not just the physical pain that the victims of such police brutalities have to endure, but also the psychological scars which may linger on for life just like in the case of the victims of sexual violence, more so when justice evades the victims and these perpetrators of such violence and abuse get honoured for meritorious service. But one cannot deny the fact there were also a handful of Goan police officers who rendered exemplary service and enjoyed the respect of the public.
Police brutalities against citizens are mostly known to be rampant in a fascist State. The recent police brutalities in Goa need to be seen in the social and political context currently prevailing in the country. Goa’s police could also be influenced by the current nationwide political climate which has several instances of police connivance in shielding those involved in mob lynchings, anti-love jihad attacks, anti-Dalit atrocities, fake encounters and targeting of minorities.
Goa’s police are hardly known to have solved any case involving communal rioting or desecration of religious places to the satisfaction of the public. Reliable sources reveal how, in some past criminal incidents, investigators were ordered to drop the communal angle while investigating the desecrations of religious places. With such a background, it was not at all surprising that a senior lady police officer was transferred overnight after she opined that the series of graveyard desecrations in South Goa in 2017 did not appear like the work of one person. The reluctance of the police to act in cases of communal crimes, or their role in fabricating cases and using excessive and indiscriminate force against the very victims of religious hate crimes is very much visible. When even a High Court judge in Meghalaya has the audacity to publicly pronounce his ideological preferences and divisive thinking, can the police be any different?
The huge religion-wise imbalance in the rank and file of Goa’s police force, and how certain recruits known to subscribe to certain divisive right-wing ideology have found their way into the force, is all common knowledge. Both the circumstances leading to the recent police brutalities in South Goa were actually trivial and never threatening the life of the cops nor the security of society. These young citizens could never have been suspected to be terrorists or goons even in the wildest imagination of the police to justify such employment of brute force. Both the instances appear to be the adventure of a bunch of policemen, probably even driven by their communal biases and prejudices, to derive sadistic pleasure from torturing defenseless citizens who belong to the minority community. Therefore, mere suspension of such personnel pending inquiry and blaming the police training syllabus for such behaviour is all hogwash. The people of Goa need an explanation as to how come the Goa Police recruited or churned out such beasts to police the ‘sosegado’ citizens of Goa?
Considering the political climate of hate, the communal bias and prejudice towards a particular community should not be ruled out in the recent police brutalities in South Goa. As usual, the actual motive will get cleverly buried by the saffron moles within the rank and file of Goa’s police. The Goa’s Director General of Police has been diverting the attention of Goans away from the actual problems with rhetoric about movie influence and the need of psychiatric treatment and counseling for behavioural problems.
The core issue being avoided is the non-implementation of the long pending police reforms, as ordered by the Supreme Court way back in 2006, and the setting up of a Goa State Minority Commission over which the Goa government has been dragging its feet. Nobody knows the status of the State Security Commission which is required to discourage unwarranted exercise or pressure on the police from the State government, to lay down broad guidelines, and evaluate the performance of the police. Until such time that these reforms are not implemented, there is enough scope for ‘Salazar’, ‘Singham’, ‘Dabangg’ and ‘Hindutva’ models and styles in policing getting experimented on select communities.
(The author is a social worker)