Punjab Police have never been known to be decent. At best, it has been indifferent to people, to situations and to the state. However, strangely, no people’s government of Punjab has ever acted to discipline the obviously undisciplined force. In the recent case of police assault on a woman who had wanted to register a complaint at a police station in Tarn Taran, Punjab government seems to be dragging its feet.
The assault was videotaped and Indian TV channels showed it time and again. Obviously, if the whole of India got to know how brutally the woman was assaulted, it is unimaginable that the Chief Minister or the Deputy Chief Minister who holds the Home portfolio was ignorant about the incident. The Tribune, Chandigarh has rightly said that the Punjab government seems to be bent upon embarrassing itself in the case of assault by the Tarn Taran police on a woman. All apparently out of a misplaced sense of solidarity with policemen who have plainly been seen behaving outrageously with a defenseless woman. Beginning with denial of any wrongdoing, to minimizing the loss of image, to obfuscating the matter with statements like there was another woman, the police have attempted to protect and then delay action against the guilty. The drivers involved in the fracas have conveniently been able to evade arrest.
The woman has been accused of attacking the police. That begs a simple question: Why would a woman and her father, out attending a wedding, assault policemen in uniform without reason?
The Supreme Court, which has taken up the matter suo motu and trashed a magisterial inquiry report submitted in this regard as a cover-up, has raised a pertinent question – were the woman and her father armed? Whatever wrong they may have committed, a whole bunch of policemen definitely did not need to assault them with sticks in public.
The police has even claimed the father has submitted an apology for his mistake. In today’s world of media activism and public awareness, to even attempt this seems farcical on the part of the police. However, it must be admitted, the matter would never have become an issue had the assault not been recorded on camera, or the courts not intervened. What defies answer is why the police top brass and the government are trying to defend the indefensible. Perhaps they sincerely believe that the policemen were not wrong in acting the way they did because there was indeed instigation from the woman. This view is also evident from the inquiry report that has pointed out that such action is required for law and order. This assessment comes from a certain attitude that has its roots in the centuries of British rule and an even longer feudal approach to the masses, previously ‘subjects’. That attitude needs to change as India prepares for a global stature – development is not just expressways.