Prashant Dayal, Ahmedabad: When the reservation agitation had broken out in Ahmedabad in 1985, there were very few societies in the western part of the city. Majority of the citizens and the businesses thrived in the eastern part of the old city. The city was put under a state of curfew given the widespread violent agitations, with the Ahmedabad Police patrolling the streets. One such instance, where a police jeep was patrolling the streets of Khadia in the old city, somebody hurled a wheel of a grain-crushing corn-mill on the police vehicle. It fell on one of the cops who was sitting at the back of the jeep and this resulted into his death.

As the news of the death of one of their men reached the other cops, an army of policemen landed at Khadia and began to thrash anyone who confronted them or they caught hold of. The cops even damaged the vehicles that were parked outside the houses in the locality. A similar incident of the cops and civilians facing off happened a few years ago when a group of Muslim youths took out a rally in Karanj locality of the city in protest against some anti-Islam comments made against them. Because the rally didn’t have the requisite police permission, the cops intercepted the procession and detained some of the participants. The agitated youths set fire to the police station where their accomplices were detained. Cops from the adjoining stations landed at Karanj upon getting informed about the arson. Though the miscreants who conducted arson had escaped, the policemen went ahead and thrashed anyone they caught hold of in the area.

A repeat of this incident was seen during the 2015 Patidar reservation agitation, where Patidar youth had targeted public property in the violence and even attacked the policemen who attempted to stop their violent run. This had resulted in the death of a few cops too. Agitated at this, the cops went to Patidar dominated areas and beat up people inside their houses and damaged their property. Exactly two days ago, cops and locals at Sardarnagar clashed. Sardarnagar locality in the city is notorious for the illegal brewing of local alcohol and sale of foreign liquor, contraband in the state. Even though the situation today is not as bad as it was in the past. People still view it in with the same as it was in the past. True, Sardarnagar is cannot be termed as completely alcohol-free and there still looms influence of people connected with the sale of liquor. It still holds its notoriety for thefts, bootlegging and skirmishes with the law, just like Juhapura area in Ahmedabad.

DK Mori, the sub-inspector who had led the raid on the locality late night on Thursday was attacked and grievously injured by the locals, and as a result, several policemen rushed to the area and rained blows at locals upon confrontation, even those innocent and unaware of this clash.

It is necessary to understand why policemen, who hold the responsibility to uphold the law and order and protect the citizens sometimes, resort to this kind of acts. Compared to any state level or national level employee or officials, the police force is the most over-worked. The cops who pride themselves on their khaki uniform are the most physically drained too. Despite working hard on duty, the general sentiment against the cops is that of corrupt government servants, something which even the policemen are aware too. Only in rare instances, the cops are praised for their work by the administration of the citizens. This attitude is what gives birth to the discontent among the cops.

Thus, when any policeman is attacked while serving even in the most trying situations, the cops ranging from IPS officers to the constables, everyone sees this as an attack on the force, and as a result, the police turn into a mob. A mob is a mob, whether it is collective of Hindus, Muslims or any community. A mob never trusts the law, similarly, when a policeman is attacked while working towards maintaining law and order, the police community loses its trust in the law and this turns them into a mob. And incidents like Sardarnagar are a product of such loss of trust in the law.

These arguments aren’t made to justify the acts of police, as the birth of jungle-raj takes place when police began to believe that the law will never be able to punish those who commit crimes and they resort to illegal encounters. There will definitely be an investigation into this incident and might see a few cops get suspended, it would be a futile exercise of the investigation doesn’t address the main cause of such occurrences.

Sociologists and psychologists can work with the police, or else, how will a tired and mentally exhausted police force protect the society.

Click here to read this in Gujarati. Prashant Dayal tweets @prashantdayal26. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more.