Democracy is a perception rather than an accomplished ideal. In India, where democratic principles find place in civics textbooks, they gradually sublime at the operational level from society to an individual. The expression of protecting the human right to live freely and fairly finds its relevance more often in the skyscrapers in the urban limits than it does at the grass root level. The guardians of the fundamental human rights have turned into criminals who abuse power for their vested interests.Democracy is a more a form of government and less of an ideology that a country practices. However, there are several instances where Indians were deprived of their fundamental rights. One of the classic examples is the Emergency declared in 1975 by the Indira Gandhi government. It was termed as the black period, as it changed the very dynamics of the democratic institutions across the nation. It was then that the police force was given undue power resulting in a wholesale violation of human rights. The presently ubiquitous belief among Indians that the police or the defense system in the country is above the law owes its existence to that period. If we were to consider more recent examples, the Shopian case is still vividly imprinted on our minds.
Shopian rape and murder in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir are spine-chilling tales of atrocities committed by the very people entrusted to protect us. There are about 10,000 people who have gone missing in the state in the past twenty years, presumably killed in encounters. According to the Amnesty International Report 2009, 40 people who did not abide by the curfew convention imposed during demonstrations over the entire Amarnath Shrine board transfer proposal were killed.
This current state of affairs is not worth boasting about. In fact, one can even say it has become worse. In the year 2004, the Gujarat Police for allegedly attacking the chief minister of the state killed a 19-year-old student Ishrat Jahan and her employer from Mumbai in an encounter. After five years of judicial inquiry by Ahemdabad Metropolitan Magistrate S.P. Tamang, he finally cited his report publicly on September 7 this year that the charges were ‘fake’. What really happened was that the Anti-Terrorism Squad chief D.G.Vanzara led a team from the Gujarat Police, which undertook a systematic, cold-blooded, and merciless murder. Therefore, the only difference between these so called vanguards of law and the thugs who blow up innocent people is that we trust the former and are therefore, infinitely more vulnerable to their crimes.
One of the reasons, which lead to increase in encounter killing by security forces across the country, is sluggish judiciary. In order to avoid lengthy court proceedings, political intervention, and in a race to solve cases and produce results, less notice is being paid to the individuals’ right to constitutional remedy guaranteed by the constitution.
There are 3,000 seats for the judges lying vacant in the judiciary as addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There is a backlog of 3.3 crore pending cases right from the apex court till the district level courts. The tedious and cumbersome process of justice has worsened the scene of fight for human rights issues in the country. Despite the country being a signatory of the Human Rights Declaration, an International governing formation, Violations continue to take place.
The state security forces, as an institution needs urgent reforms in delegation of power, organizational structure and technical upgradation. The officials often succumb to the top-level pressure thereby left with no choice but to comply. Meager payment, round the clock duty and dealing with criminal issues seldom encourages positive approach. For example, the annual budget spent by the government on Mumbai Police is not more than 480 crore out of which each police officer has to deal with at least 400 citizens on an average. However, the amount spent on Scotland Yard is 28,000 crore wherein each officer deals with 150 citizens. There is absence of ‘morale’ as majority of people who join these force belong to families, which only subsist on government pay structure.
Strict action needs to be taken against the offenders within the governing system that serves as an example. There are draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA), etc that gives an officer unhindered power resulting into repeated human rights violation, which needs to be revived.
There is pressing need for National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to play a pivotal role in combating human rights violation by the state security forces. The motto of NHRC is *Sarve Bhavantu Sukinah*, happiness and health to be achieved by rightful means for the people of the country. However, the data of number of complaints filed by people for fake encounters in past sixteen years since its inception has a different story to tell. 1,262 complaints filed by people to NHRC, of which only 11 of were awarded compensation to the victims of the family. NHRC has not been strictly victorious however it is a watchdog, which takes affirmative action.
One wonders that amidst diluted meaning of ‘security forces,’ and ‘democracy,’ what is that ignites the spirit to revive the principle of participation and concern of masses. It is the people in power who have changed the sense of human rights. However, it will be too early to affirm that India is a dysfunctional democracy. One should not forget that it is the same force, which handed, Ajmal Kasab the perpetrator of 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack, last year killing 173 people and injuring at least 308 to an Indian lawyer defending his case. People across the globe are familiar with his fate.
In India violation of human rights by the people in power signifies a systematic decay in the arrangement of governance, which calls for imperative alteration, which should protect its people regardless power. Democracy thrives on three principles strong opposition, independent judiciary and free press; all three needs to learn and work towards safeguarding *the value of life *as power unquestionably comes with RESPONSIBILTY.
“To slight a single human being, is to slight those divine powers and thus to harm not only that being but with him, the whole world. “
– Mahatma Gandhi
Mumbai Police website