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Tuesday, August 14, 2001

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Police officers resent 'victimisation'

By Sarabjit Pandher

CHANDIGARH, AUG. 13. Peace may have been established in Punjab but the process and the instruments used to snuff out violence continue to be the focus of public debate. It is unfortunate that the articulations on the issue are limited only to ``allowing the law to take its course'' or granting amnesty to those who perpetrated gruesome violence, including the instruments of the State who are under judicial scrutiny.

With a crisis once again brewing, top officials of the security forces are expected to put their heads together and take up the matter at the highest level in the Union Home Ministry, it is reliably learnt. For the security forces, the matter is of concern as it could affect the ``morale of the boys'' in the insurgency-ravaged areas like Jammu and Kashmir as well as the North-Eastern States. For others, it could well be the milestone from where even more vicious acts could be devised by the State machinery.

The issue has once again come under the spotlight after a group of about 100 Punjab police officers, facing trial for alleged human rights violation, threatened to return their medals and gallantry awards, which they had been conferred with earlier for their ``fight against terrorism.'' Reacting to this, various human rights groups gathered a number of families of ``victims of police excesses,'' in Chandigarh's main shopping plaza, to demand that at least 250 such officers be stripped of their decorations.

For the first time since peace was established, the police officers facing prosecution have brought to the fore the functioning of the security forces dealing with terrorism. According to reports in a section of the media, a group of such officers meeting at Jalandhar on Sunday objected to victimisation for carrying out orders, which they claim were issued from the top.

They have pointed out that former Director Generals of Police (DGPs), Mr. K.P.S. Gill and Mr. O.P. Sharma, who is currently the Governor of Nagaland, should be held equally responsible. They have also posed questions regarding the role of the bureaucrats posted as Deputy Commissioners and the local magistrates, which provided a facade of legitimacy to their acts.

An analysis of the growth of violence has shown that it was the opportunistic politicians employing the weapons of their trade, an inefficient bureaucracy, a defunct judicial system and finally an overactive police set-up, which resulted in the years of turmoil in the State.

However, by eliminating some terrorists it has not been possible to remove the conditions that allowed violence to flourish. ``Similarly, by punishing a few police personnel only, would human rights be established in the State, where the nature of politics continues in the same idiom?'' is the question being asked.

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