Last Sunday, probably after reading my piece on how religions must absorb technological developments like Pokemon Go, a Ganesh Pandal nearby decided to find out what I think of assimilation of modern sound amplification technologies, if not modern poetry, in Hinduism by playing “shake the booty” so loudly that even speakers sounded as if in pain.
As I belong to the grand tradition of armchair philosophers guiding humanity towards a better future, I know that onus of following my advices rests upon humanity and not me. So, instead of pondering over how loudspeaker technology can be made to assimilate with religion, I promptly called the police who came and enforced the law and reinstated peace. But, with siesta interrupted, I ended up meditating over the use, or rather abuse, of police as a law enforcement agency.
While we are extremely critical of Indian police, we do not realize that jurisprudence that governs policing in a sovereign nation (that we are) is completely different than that of an enslaved one (that we were).
A sovereign nation of people is born when there is a collective acceptance of law of the land as a force of greater good. If India exists as a nation, it means that we all have agreed that Indian laws are good for us. As no sane individual is expected to voluntarily inflict self-harm, it is presumed that most of us will follow law and hence law, in a sovereign nation, does not need enforcement.
Expecting universal law-abidingness from citizens is a valid premise but not a practical one; because few criminal individuals will always see personal gain in violating law, so every state requires an agency to catch and punish such criminals. Upon detecting crime, state uses concept of punishment to offset the gains made from crime to make it work as a deterrent. Police of a sovereign nation is, thus, crime detection and justice delivery agency not expected to force people to obey law. It is presumed that people will obey law on their own as part of their duty as citizens.
On the other hand, in an occupied country, there is no collective consensus about goodness of law. In fact, law will be put in place for occupier’s benefit and hence it needs to be enforced upon people. So, police of an enslaved country needs to play the role of law-enforcement agency.
Though we all get teary-eyed singing national anthem, the true test of our nationalism actually takes place at every traffic junction with red light where we clearly express our majority opinion about what we think of the law of the land. This is not limited to traffic laws only; we refuse to follow most laws voluntarily, be it income tax or town planning, if state doesn’t enforce them upon us.
The fact that our police has to work as a law-enforcement agency means that we are actually just a geographical unit of 1.3 billion nation-less people who, even after 70 years of notional independence, look at the state as an alien occupier. This collective feeling regularly gets expressed in riots across India with people gleefully destroying public property as if they have no stake in its ownership.
Our police is dysfunctional because what is expected from it is impossible. No police force in the world can hope to make 1.3 billion unwilling individuals to follow law. The net result is a frustrated force resorting to enforcement tactics more suitable for people of a slave country.
At this point, we have a police force that we deserve. If we wish to change it, we need to change our outlook towards our nation and imbibe that its laws are for our own good.