Pune police make efforts to earn trust of north-easterners

Last week, students from the north-eastern States finally got what they had been looking forward to for more than a year: a football tournament. When Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol attended the final match, it wasn’t just another act of symbolism but a conscious effort by policemen to make the students feel part of the city.

Even as the death of Arunachal Pradesh student Nido Tania in New Delhi continues to generate debate on police apathy and discrimination, efforts to reassure people from the north-east in Pune are slowly bearing results.

“We never thought the police could be so approachable. They have been very helpful in making us feel part of the city,” said Rock Lungleng from the North-East Students’ Forum.

Recounting what happened in 2012, when these students had to bear the fallout of the riots between Bodos and Muslims in Assam, Rock said the atmosphere at the time was hostile. Fear had engulfed them and many had fled the city.

Building bridges

Sports and cultural events have played a major role in bringing people from the north-east closer to the local population, Rock said.

The police have made special efforts in sensitive areas like Kondhwa. Last month, they organised a football match between students from the north-east and Muslim youth. ACP Prasad Hasabnis, who was the police Inspector in Kondhwa when the riots broke out, said it was important to gain the trust of both the communities. “We realised that the two groups didn’t mix socially and hence there were misunderstandings and a sense of fear and insecurity. We have taken sustained efforts to allay those fears,” he said.

Apart from dialogue and meetings between the two groups, football matches and celebration of festivals together were seen as a way of bringing people together.

Hussain Khan, a youngster from Kondhwa, also credits the police with bringing the two groups together. “We didn’t know much about them, and that gave rise to suspicion. Through social events and matches, we have realised how similar we are.”

Plans for a cricket match are in the offing, Rock disclosed.