gfiles magazine

April 19, 2011

Why Mumbai burne d on 26/11

The top echelons of the police force suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), hence the delayed response during the 26/11 terror attack. Why did no one go to the rescue of Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar? The response time of the famed Mumbai police has been 6-7 minutes after any incident. Even after 45 minutes, Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar were unattended.
That is because the top police brass was suffering from PTSD and was too scared to react. There is mistrust between the top brass and the low-ranking officers and constables.

IN my book, Why Mumbai Burnt And Bhiwandi Did Not, on the communal riots, I analysed the chain of events that led to the communal riots in the twin cities. More than any external factors, the local criminals were responsible for the riots. Since the 1992-93 post-Ayodhya riots in Mumbai, there have been more deaths due to communal violence in Mumbai than in Bhiwandi, perceived as a communally sensitive town.
Since I introduced the Mohalla Committee concept in the 1984 communal riots, the higher echelons of the police administration have been systematically trying to scuttle the concept – labelling it as unpragmatic and leading to corruption. The concept ushered in an attitudinal change in the police who began interacting with the locals more politely, thereby also bringing in transparency and reducing mistrust and corruption. One singular effect of the scheme was that intelligence gathering improved considerably.
I have always maintained that the “Dispute-Free Village” scheme is impractical. [The scheme was introduced by the Democratic Front government led by the Congress-NCP in 1999-2004 and is now recognized by the UN.] In India, villages are divided along caste, communal and even political ideologies. I am also against giving cash awards to villages that ensure zero crime rate or disputes. The scheme actually suppresses registration of cases. The poor are often turned away with the argument that registration will deny their village the award. The suffering citizens are told that their dignity has no value.
The Mohalla Committee should be headed by the local senior police officer rather than any politician or local leader. The same should be done in the case of committees under the Dispute-Free Villages scheme. That is because consensus is never reached on one candidate and that leads to rival camps claiming that the appointee is their man.
Moreover, I had called for making these 100-member committees and for youth to be given due representation.
I have repeatedly called for police reforms. It has been repeatedly shot down by the bureaucracy headed by the IAS. As communal tension was beginning to rise again on August 29, 2003, I had written to the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) and urged reforms in the police administration. The system still operates on the pre-British Police Manual and is incapable of curbing terrorism. The response from the then State Director General of Police was: “Do not send such useless letters.”
Our policing methods are now outdated, be it the Mission statement, the Objectives, Strategies, or ways to handle Crime and Law and Order situations. Hence, there is a sense of insecurity among the people. The question is not of modern equipment. That is there. What hurts is the opposition from senior bureaucrats to any change in the system. I have tried to remain in the system and reform it from within. The ones opposing this want to survive on the system itself.
During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s Mumbai visit after the July 11, 2006, serial blasts, I was told by the then DGP to keep my mouth shut. Patil knew about my innovative scheme. When he enquired about the Mohalla Committees, the Mumbai Police Commissioner fumbled for words as the top brass had taken the decision to wind up these committees.
Even in the second phase of the December 1992 communal riots in Mumbai, the riots ceased only after the local rioters lost steam. Worst of all, even today our response to investigating terror attacks is like that of an investigation into a diamond heist.

The top brass is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because hardly 2% of IPS officers, like the late Kamte, have really opted for the IPS cadre. The rest are IPS officers by default.

The height of it all came when Why Mumbai Burnt And Bhiwandi Did Not was published in November 2010. Additional Director General of Police Satyapal Singh sent a letter to me asking why disciplinary action should not be taken against me. I said, first read the book and then decide. As per the Constitution and service rules, my book is scientific and does not violate the rules.
They did the same thing in 2003 when I brought out my book, Navi Disha (New Direction), on the need for police reforms. For two years they consulted their lawyers. They found nothing whereby they could take any action against me. Senior bureaucrats always dread the prospect of any change. But their norms of service are interwoven into the power structure and their apprehensions are unfounded.
I have had to pay dearly for having the courage to speak about the system and the need for reforming it. For 12 months I was made to sit at home, my salary was denied. I was even denied my annual increment. The DGP’s office had declared me “Not Traceable”. Imagine, if the Home department and the police establishment cannot trace an IPS officer, how on earth will they be able to trace another Kasab? Eighty percent of my subordinates support my view. But the senior officers are fearful of being seen beside me or talking to me.
My biggest mistake was made in 1982 when I joined as Deputy Superintendent of Police and was posted at Panvel in Raigad district. There were two dacoits, Ram and Shyam, who had a reign of terror in the region. The Superintendent of Police, Purushottam Jadhav, had made an unsuccessful attempt to nab them. I laid a trap and an encounter ensued. I sustained bullet injuries in the abdomen and right thigh. Had the shot at my abdomen been an inch higher, it would have ruptured my lungs. While recuperating, I wrote my report. But I made the mistake of not writing one line stating that the encounter would not have been possible without the guidance of my senior, the SP.
Well, people are ego-conscious. It took 11 years of struggle to get my first police medal. For the last 30 years, I have been asked to keep mum at the DGP-level meetings. It is very difficult and humiliating to work under junior officers. Initially, my family used to get tense over my habit of speaking about the system. Due promotions were also denied to me.
Prior to this posting, I was posted in the Establishment branch which deals with service records and confidential reports of IPS officers. The order never reached me, but a junior-rank officer was prompted to move the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) with the ulterior motive of scuttling the transfer order.
Our police continues to use procedures like nakabandi, combing nearby slums, going through local historysheeters and using third degree methods against hardened terrorists, Maoists or separatists. The police force has the capacity to tackle a menace like terrorism, but it is never fully utilised. That is because the top brass is stunted and is incapable of leading the force. The IAS-IPS tussle is another cause for the decline.
Today, the IPS and policing have become more technology-oriented. Instead of having jockeys in top posts, we have tongawallahs manning the police force. I say the top brass is suffering from PTSD because hardly 2% of IPS officers, like the late Kamte, have really opted for the IPS cadre. The rest are IPS officers by default. Moreover, they care more about getting foreign postings and planning their career moves.
Global research has shown that people who man ambulances or police personnel who deal with fatal cases tend to become panicky and show emotional disorders over the years. When confronted with such situations again, panic sets in – giving rise to responses such as seen during the 26/11 terror attack. It is like the case of the terrified rabbit running helter-skelter, screaming that the heavens have fallen when it is just a dead leaf that has fallen on its back. It is not the low-rank constable, but the high-rank officer who is at fault.
What is needed is the alternative police manual. Any change is initially met with denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance of the fate accompli. Clean administration does not mean putting saintly figures at the helm of affairs. It is a classic case of the management science concept of a frog quickly jumping out of the bowl of boiling water. But if the same bowl of water at room temperature is slowly brought to a boil, the frog does not realise the increase in temperature and dies a painful death. That is what has become of our police administrative machinery.
We need bureaucrats with full knowledge of the police psyche and they should be flexible. Politicians tend to be flexible. They take into account factors like vote-bank politics, age-limit factors and re-election. However, these factors do not govern IAS officers. Since one does not need any qualification to be in the Cabinet of Ministers, the politicians’ dependence on them is taken advantage of by these IAS officers.

I cannot stop myself from speaking. If I do, I will not be able to survive. I am due for retirement in another seven months. I have not set any agenda for myself.

We need a borderless laboratory where people can come together and solve problems. The bureaucrat does not care for the common man, he cares only for the rich. But the Cabinet does fear the common man. Activists and the common man can target the bureaucrat. It is a case of “If not you, then who; if not now, then why not now?” We need the kind of system there is in China which keeps a check on the administration and stops corruption in its tracks.
In 2009, I introduced new concepts of policing titled “Mega City Policing” while I was in charge of North Mumbai. Prior to that, in 2003 I implemented new concepts in rural policing while taking into account human resource development and modernization schemes.
I cannot stop myself from speaking. If I do, I will not be able to survive. I am due for retirement in another seven months. I have not set any agenda for myself. I want to reach out to the masses, apprise them of where the problem lies and how they can try and rectify it.
Following my book on the Bhiwandi riots in 1992, the Library of Congress in the US has included my name in its reference catalogue. In 1998, I was called by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, for a seminar. In 2010, I went to China for another seminar on social conflict resolution where my paper was adjudged the best paper.

Suresh Khopade, Special Inspector General of Police, CID (Crime), belongs to the 1987 IPS batch.

No comments:

Post a Comment