Monday, 1 February 2016

Stuck in Smoke: The Fear of Police Brutality

As a journalist, coming home late is so normal that no time is late anymore per se but by normal standards, yes it was. And by late, I mean almost midnight.

This was a good day and since I did come back fast, I hadn’t had anything to eat. So I went to get a vada pav, which in case you’re wondering is a fried potato patty stuffed inside a bun and heated on a pan, sometimes with cheese.

The Incident

I just wanted to get the vada pav and get back home but no, events have to conspire on the one day I get home fast and that’s what happened here.

I got to the shop, ordered my cheese vada pav and then started reading the menu because there really isn’t much you can do while you wait. By the time I read half of it, my order was done and as I reached over the counter to take the parcel, I heard the shutters come down. Turning around, I saw one of the workers signalling all of us customers to be quiet and loudly whisper – POLICE.

I saw the time and sure enough, it was 12:00 am. The police had obviously come to shut down everything and we had been unlucky to be inside the place at that time.

It was then that it began. One of the dozen or so customers asked if the police would beat us if they found us. I thought he must be joking but turning around I saw that he and his friends were earnestly discussing this possibility which amused and worried me at the same time. Then the employees shut the lights off and the murmurs grew louder.

It amused me because I believe that the police could not beat us up for being there but I was apprehensive because I didn’t know for sure what the police would do. ‘Could’ and ‘would’ – the difference between knowing how things ideally work and not knowing how things will actually take place.

Image Courtesy: schmidtgs2.wikispaces.com

After ten minutes or so of this conversation, an employee got an all-clear phone call from the other side of the shutter and he opened it just a little and let us out in pairs. It reminded me of a couple of movies where people are trying to cross international borders.

And I thought to myself,

“Are things really so bad?”

“Why is there fear even on a normal day in a busy part of the city?”

“Are these people right in mistrusting the police?”

“Do we need to fear the very people in charge of protecting us?”

“Is this paranoia or years of ingrained reality?”

And the most important thought,

“Is this the fear of one person creeping into all in a distressing environment or is this a mutual repressed feeling being triggered by a mere mention of atrocity?”


The Implications

The latter thought is scarier than the former and if true, needs to be addressed by the Ahmedabad City Police at the earliest because if the people don’t trust their protectors, who are they going to put their faith into?

The Next Step


I hope this post reaches the police department because I figure they should be concerned even if this is an isolated incident, which isn’t very likely.