For smooth functioning of a democracy, separation of powers among the three organs of the government – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary is deemed to be an important one. In a democratic state, the primary role of the police is to protect the citizens from the violation of their human rights.

Idea and practice go hand in hand but what this article aims to reflect on is the contradiction that exists between the two. In this case, the idea is a question, ‘What should the police do?‘ and the practice is a reflection on what the police actually does keeping in mind the context of a peaceful protest that was slated to be held at India Gate for the missing JNU student, Najeeb Ahmed.

On November 6, 2016, a protest was held at India gate to find Najeeb Ahmed, a student from JNU who is missing since 23 days. The Indian Express reported that Fatima (Najeeb’s mother) and Sadaf (sister) were literally dragged to the bus and taken to the police station and there were also reports of the police officials manhandling not only them, but also other students from JNU who were present there for the protest.

It is evident from the picture, the atrocity committed by a police official, who is otherwise supposed to be a ‘protector of the citizens of the country.

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Image Credit: Indian Express

It was in this light that the JNU student Activist, Rama Naga very rightly pointed out in his Facebook post dated November 7, 2016,

Delhi Police has proved itself time and again that it is the most patriarchal, racist, anti Minority and anti Dalits and anti Adivasi cop in the country. Yesterday, a male police officer physically assaulted one of our female comrades. The Delhi Commission For Women (DCW) has issued notice to Delhi Police over it. Every time, when you meet the Police Commissioner, he says we are sensitising our cops. Now our officers are more gender sensitive than earlier. The Vasant Kunj Police even invites our GSCASH representatives for sensitisation programs. But the male police officers forget all the sensitivity when they get order to attack female protestors. They abuse female protestors, they touch any part of the body by taking advantage of the order. सिर्फ चड्डी बदलने से सोच नहीं बदल जाती है। #SanghiPolice

It is so gross that a site of protest which demands justice in turn becomes a site of violation of women’s bodies where groping and touching them inappropriately becomes a covert occurrence. It is mainly to exert power and authority over them that the police officials routinely commit such awful acts in order to shun down the female participants of the protest. The image below will help substantiate how the police officials manhandled women at this protest.

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Image Credit: Indian Express

Another JNU student activist, Satarupa Chakraborty condemned such acts by the police officials and wrote on his Facebook post on November 7, 2016.

The Delhi Police stooped into new lows when they used male police personnel to manhandle a female protester whose only demand was to peacefully protest at india Gate. Yet again a reminder that the state is not interested in showing even the least minimum compassion to the peaceful protesters and their just demands.
Rise in rage!

We can see the grin on the police officer’s face and the way he is trying to catch hold of the female student by her breasts. It is the deep rooted patriarchal structure that reflects in the police of our country as well where sexual assault is used as an effective tool to silence women.

Also, it is very crucial to note that it is extremely unethical to use images of women being harassed both by the general public on social media or other platforms and also by the news websites without the consent of the victim. It totally strips off the notion of consent and the fact that women who are being victimized in these situations would not want to reveal their identity.

It is not the first time that the police has displayed such an awful behaviour towards women. In the context of the protests which were carried on for the demand of justice for the 16th Decemeber, 2012 gang rape case; we can see explicit misuse of the authority of police officials.

The brutal rape shook Indians to the core and there was galvanization of massive protests by all the spheres of the society. There were questions raised against the character of the victim and her clothes but these voices were demanding safer roads and spaces for women and they did not want the victim to be blamed for the violence inflicted on her.

However, these protestors too were pushed around by the police and the site of protest became a horrific site for women who complained of being groped not only by the police officials but also the fellow male participants in the protest. Ironic, isn’t it? A protest demanding justice for a ‘rape’ victim becomes gruesome to the extent that there is violation of women’s bodies in the protest. The image given below is from the protest which took place at India Gate in December, 2012 where the victim’s mother, Asha Devi is manhandled by a police official.

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Image Credit: Mid-day

Therefore the deeply rooted and inherent patriarchal structure of the society is covertly reflected in the way that the police treats women in these protest and how they want to silence the women’s voice which they consider as a threat to their manliness and authority that they derive from by virtue of being a “man”.

Then Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Tajendra Khanna said, “Police will be trained to not speak in a rough language with the women who walk in to complain. A strong message should go out that there is zero tolerance for misbehavior with women.”

However, does it seem plausible to bring such a radical change in the outer world from top when our structures and society itself marginalize women on a daily basis. Are we failing to empower women and are men enjoying their privilege at the cost of discrimination, sexual violence, sexual harassment which is meted out to women and is exclusive to them?

It is not only important to reflect on the above questions but also understand that the relationships in the private sphere of lives shape the larger political and social structures of the society in which we live and the police cannot be expected to be an institution which is not gender-biased since that too is a child of patriarchal society that we inhabit.

It is important to educate the police officials in order to make them gender sensitive and also to make them aware of the role of compassionate individuals that they are supposed to be due to the assigned role of the ‘protector’ to them.

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