The attempt of Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also the state’s home minister, to ignore the widespread resentment against the atrocities committed by a section of the police force is regrettable. Mr Vijayan being the political executive responsible for the overall control and the supervision of the force must make an effort to understand the grievance of the people and act on it. To call legitimate criticism of the police as “labelling” as he did in a recent note in the social media does not help solve the issue.
There have been complaints against the way the police have been behaving with the public ever since Mr Vijayan assumed office in 2016. The first instance of police highhandedness happened when they killed two Maoists in an alleged fake encounter in Nilambur barely weeks after the new ministry was sworn in. Mr Vijayan responded to the criticism against the police saying the government would do nothing to undermine the morale of the force. That was followed by more incidents, and altogether eight people have lost their lives in similar encounters across the state over the last seven years. The latest in the series of allegations against the police is the custodial torture of two siblings, one a soldier in the Indian Army, in a fake case. A district unit of Mr Vijayan’s own party was recently forced to go public complaining about police harassment.
It is an eminently good idea to give the force operational freedom but it must precede adequate training and sensitisation of its members about the democratic rights of the people. The Kerala government is attempting to take care of only the first part, leaving the people at the receiving end. Mr Vijayan is no stranger to police brutality; he was one of the worst victims of this during the Emergency. The protection of the civil and democratic rights of the people is of paramount importance in our constitutional scheme of things; some achievements do not square off a series of atrocities. The Kerala police get no exception, and the chief minister would do well to remember that.