Learn the law, leave moral policing to others

Ranjona BanerjiHow blessed is Mumbai to have a police commissioner who thinks so deeply? The other day, Satyapal Singh told us that western education is more or less responsible for crime and people who studied in Sanskrit can never become rapists.

Now he adds this precious titbit: that sex education leads to rape. It would be interesting to take this thought process further: all those fathers and uncles who rape their daughters, sons, nieces and nephews, how much sex education had they received before they got married?

Was rape non-existent before sex education was introduced in schools? What extremely progressive school did a 60-year-old rapist attend that included sex education in its curriculum? I am 50 and they didn’t have it in schools that I attended in both Bombay and Calcutta, as they were called in those days.

Satyapal Singh
Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh at an event said that western education was to blame for the high number of rapes

Indeed, Singh’s ideas about crime seem to come straight from the Mohan Bhagwat school of culture, where all things Bharatiya are perfect and all things Western are evil. It is a simplistic way of looking at life and while it may suit the head of the RSS, it does not work so well for a man entrusted with policing a major metropolis.

What we need in fact from our top police officers and bureaucrats is not pop philosophy so much as basic understanding of the Constitution and the law. If this is the way that senior police officers think - just to use Singh as an example is it surprising that lower down the order, many police officers mistake their job for moral policing?

Instead of upgrading their methods and clearing up the mess that passes for investigation, they are apparently more bothered about what people wear, what and when they drink and dance and what time they go to bed. When in fact the job of the police is to ensure that you can what you want as long as it’s legal in a safe environment.

The convicted rapist who was acquitted by the Bombay High Court - only to rape again - may belong to Shirdi and not Mumbai, but that case is symptomatic of the sort of imperfect investigation and prosecution which is now par for the course in Maharashtra. A few more lectures to the police about how to conduct themselves might work better than lecturing the general public about the dangers of English education and sex education.

Meanwhile, a police woman of the Mumbai force writes a poem recommending that the protesters at the Azad Maidan incident were traitors and should have been shot one by one and this gets published in a police journal. And the Mumbai police have refused permission to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender rally planned for February 2 on the grounds that traffic will be disrupted.

The rally has been held for the past five years. Given the apparently high moral and Indian cultural standards of our police, perhaps they are less bothered about traffic than they are about their narrow-minded ideas about how people should live? A discussion about India’s cultural moorings is always welcome. But there is a time and place. And perhaps when Mumbai starting to rival New Delhi with its appalling crime rate is neither the time nor the place.

The police force may have forgotten the terror attacks of November 2008, but the wounds are still fresh for some of us. We know that all the promises made about safety equipment and procedures have not been fulfilled. We remember that the police lost some of its bravest because of infighting, law of preparation and training and the worst of all, substandard equipment.

I really don’t care which school Mumbai’s police officers went to or what language they studied in. I do care if they are regressive, inefficient and do not understand the law. How about you?

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona 

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