Sunday, July 08, 2007

Police inaction in the Pooja case in Rajkot

Pooja Chauhan in Rajkot
Quite a few people would have seen this photograph in their morning paper (TOI) from a few days back, and been shocked by it. In a conservative city such as Rajkot, such a form of protest would be all the more shocking.
The facts of the case are about a married woman making allegations of dowry and harassment against her husbands and in-laws in her marriage of 3 years (that too, after a love marriage). She alleges that the police have not acted on her complaints, of course without adequate proof, it is difficult to confirm, but it is quite likely that such a thing would have happened. Read about this:

Conservative Rajkot went into convulsions on Wednesday when alleged mental and physical abuse by her husband's family drove a 22-year-old woman to strip to her underwear and walk through the city in protest. Pooja Chauhan said she had taken to this unique protest after being constantly harassed for not bringing dowry and bearing a girl-child.
Sources said police inaction on her complaints had driven her to stage such a protest. "When her complaint against her in-laws failed to evoke any response, she tried to immolate herself at the office of the police commissioner last Friday but police personnel stopped her," said a source in the commissionerate.

It is not hard to believe that such a thing could happen. The police force in our country has stopped being an effective instrument of law and order, acting only when they are prodded by the courts, or by massive public pressure. Left to themselves, they will act as per politicians, or as per whichever party to a case can provide them more benefit.
Just to say that nobody can really comment on the case till things are very clear, there was another report on the same issue, this time about a previous case where also the police did not act. This case was filed by her husband the previous year,

In what is being seen as a damage control measure by the police, an application against Pooja Chauhan, filed with the police on April 12, 2006, by her husband, surfaced on Saturday.
The 'freely' distributed application by her husband, Pratapsinh, however, had not evoked any interest then among the cops concerned, who had recorded his statement and then forgotten about it. It is the content of these applications, which have raised doubts among many here about the twist being given to the Pooja case.

Without going into details about the case, it is noteworthy to evaluate that such things would have been getting repeated on a periodic basis in police stations across the country, where police either do not file FIR's, or file them and take no action, or take action when they are either prodded to or paid to (although action could be a negative action).
How do we get out of such problems ? We need to make the police more accountable, and that is the crux of the problem. Currently, the police is not accountable except where politicians are involved or some major case has a media spotlight. We need to make sure that states are signing up to the Supreme Court mandated police reform as a first step, and then an oversight mechanism can be setup to make the police be more of a people's force rather than a law unto themselves.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 1:42 AM