In Non-Stop India, you quote a villager saying, “occasionally, an elderly person may be slapped or a driver get shot”. Does the violence, and the nonchalant acceptance of it here, continue to shock you even today?
Yes, I’m shocked by the violence of the police. About a year ago, I was walking in a park in Nizamuddin East, just below the walls of Humayun’s tomb, and a police patrol car stopped, and two policemen got out. There were a couple of young lads in the park, and they went up to these lads, and took one of them aside, and the first thing they did was sort of hit him across the face. And I went up to them, and I said, “You’re not allowed to do that.” And they said, “But he’s a pickpocket, and if we hadn’t done that, he’d have picked your pocket.” So I said, “But even if he’s a pickpocket, you have absolutely no right to hit him like that.” So they just shrugged their shoulders, walked off, and left the guy right there. Now, if he was a pickpocket, why didn’t they take him with them?
And there was a blatant example the other day, in Delhi station. There was this elderly person, probably pretty poor and everything, lying on the station, and the police were poking him with their lathis and telling him to get up. So again, I went up to them, and said, “What on earth are you doing that for?” They looked at me and basically said, “What’s it to do with you?” and again, they just sloped off. The brutality of the police still upsets me.
It’s troubling, and I think it’s because the poorer people don’t think they have any recourse against the police. They don’t think that if they were to go to a superior police officer, he would pay any attention. So the best thing is to grin and bear it, otherwise it will get worse. If you make a big hungama about it, from being slapped in the park, you could find yourself in the cell, you know. I think that’s the problem. But I think the police are genuinely very unpopular in this country.
Image: A boy eyes a gun carried by a villager in Jehanabad on 17 April, 2004.