Is bad news never going to take a holiday?

Nowadays, my eyes skim across the news as I turn pages, because I am reluctant to take in any more depressing stuff. I know, I know there is The Better India and Upworthy, and The Sarcastic Indian makes me laugh, but I keep feeling all these are just sops to keep me quiet while the world in general and we in particular hurtle towards everlasting chaos.

Which is itself a flawed premise, given that change is the only constant and even chaos will end. Except that this is my life and it’s short and sometimes I want to see an edge of light on the horizon of dark clouds.

So as I wait to see what the government will do with the 1.7 lakh crores it has extracted from the Reserve Bank of India, the memes sweep in. The one I liked best was “The government is going to force Swiss Banks to cough up all our black money. The RBI has now been rechristened Swiss Bank”. Even koyla jokes serve their purpose.

And we needed koyla jokes yesterday in the face of the news that Kashmiris can whistle for an end to their ordeal, with the Supreme Court announcing it would examine the issue only on October 4.

Against this background, there was the “comforting” news that the Status of Indian Policing report, 2019, based on a survey conducted by Common Cause and the Lokniti program of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, had found that one in three policemen believed it was “natural” for lynch mobs to act against people they believed were guilty of cow slaughter.

It gets better. Almost one in two, 43 percent, think it is to be expected that a mob would themselves punish someone believed to be guilt of rape. In case of minor offences, however, policemen would like to take matters into their own hands.

No less than 37 percent would rather not let such small matters, of which presumably, these indifferently trained, inadequately educated, usually marginalised semi-professionals, would be the final arbiters, get to court at all. They would prefer to hand out punishments themselves rather than a legal trial, felt 37% personnel interviewed.

And the icing on the cake – one in two policemen surveyed, feels that Muslims are likely to be naturally prone to committing crimes. How much are you willing to bet that the figure is actually conservative? After all, in the survey, conducted across 21 states, only 12,000 police officials and around 11,000 family members were actually interviewed, the former at police stations.

There are 15,040 police stations in India, 1.42 million policemen, and we are still shy of almost half a million for adequate policing. Think about the inadequacies, the poor salaries, the lack of facilities and infrastructure, not to mention equipment. Think about the lack of basic amenities. Think about the kind of manpower policing attracts. Think of the times when policemen have actually intervened to stop a lynching successfully.

I think one in two policemen with a hateful communal agenda is way off the mark. It is much, much more, and, considering there is consistently low proportionate representation of Muslims in the police, this is hardly surprising. It’s all very dark and depressing. So dark in fact that soon even memes will not help.

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