Visuals can often carry messages that words simply cannot. That is exactly what can be said about the visual of UP police chief S Javeed Ahmad bearing the brunt of a Taser gun – that is used to fire a dart to immobilise criminals.
Ahmad chose himself as a test subject to demonstrate the gun’s efficacy. And it was clear that he found the weapon to be quite useful, given the summarisation of his own experience: “Tare dikhai diye (saw stars).” Though it was not a false sense of bravado that inspired Ahmad to puff up his chest and bear the dart.
Far from it, the DGP’s actions were motivated by his desire to empathise with fellow citizens. In his own way, he quietly challenged the stereotype of police bureaucracy which is safely ensconced in a cocoon and seen cosying up to political masters. Contrast this with the image of a certain police chief of Uttar Pradesh, who was seen dancing in a birthday bash of a chief minister, in Lucknow.
For the past two decades, the post of the DGP in the country’s largest state has often been filled by persons with pliable backbones. Once a powerful DGP office at Lucknow, where stalwarts like NS Saksena, JN Chaturvedi, Prakash Singh ran the police administration without fear and favour, the place over the years has been reduced to the status of a mere post office. The decisions of transfers and postings were shifted to the chief minister’s office.
The decline began when Vir Bahadur Singh became the chief minister and allowed a group of middle-men, belonging to his caste, to meddle with the policing. In ND Tiwari’s time, a coterie of Brahmin middle-men emerged that often dictated the police administration in a very discreet manner.
This was around the time when one of the finest reserve police (provincial armed constabulary) force of the state got communalised, following a spate of riots across the state.
The inexorable decline of the UP police in fact began in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regime when powerful station house officers (SHOs) pulled the strings through their political masters.
In some cases, these SHOs didn't hesitate to act as henchmen for politicians, as they found loyalty to a political party more rewarding than to their duties. The DGP’s position became an ornamental post without any control over the police. For the first time, it was heard that IPS officers in the state were used to extort money from their lucrative postings.
In Mayawati’s time, those managing the affairs harnessed their skills of running the government by taking the corruption to the police station level. Police officers in the state talked in hushed tones about the rates of the police stations that were open to auction. None of the DGPs could muster enough courage to put an end to this practice.
It would be naïve to believe that Javeed Ahmad alone could check the malignancy that has afflicted the UP police for so long. But there is little doubt that he has been sending all the right signals to the country’s largest police force, which stands much-maligned on account of political corruption and religious prejudices.
Needless to say, in the decadent political culture of the state officers like Javeed Ahmad stand out as a ray of hope for the UP police to break the stereotype and assume a pro-people character.