In an interview that will annoy the government and ruffle the feathers of the Delhi Police but strike a chord with the people of Delhi, Ajay Raj Sharma, former Commissioner of Police in Delhi and former Director General of the Border Security Force, has said that if he was Police Commissioner he would have immediately arrested Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra.
Sharma also fears that the Delhi Police are becoming communal. The videos of their behaviour during the riots, which are circulating on social media, clearly suggest this. He said Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik has faced a tough test but had failed to pass it. He said the police had not handled the Delhi riots effectively and accepts that the history of Delhi Police mishandling situations goes back at least as far as the December incidents in Jamia Millia Islamia, if not further.
In a 35-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Sharma began by saying that Justice K.M. Joseph was completely correct when he said in the Supreme Court on the February 26 that “lack of professionalism of the police is the main problem here”.
Sharma said that the police had allowed the situation to develop and become a riot. If they had acted earlier this could have been prevented. He said the first mistake made by the police was to permit the gathering at Shaheen Bagh to happen and then continue. He said this gathering was clearly a violation of the law. It occurred on public property and no one has a right to block roads and create inconvenience. If the police had acted on the very first day the Shaheen Bagh gathering began, a lot that thereafter followed could have been prevented.
However, it was what Sharma called the second mistake by the police that reveals how courageously outspoken he is. He said if he was Police Commissioner, he would have immediately arrested Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra. In the case of Thakur he would have been required to first inform the home ministry. In the case of Verma, he would have needed to inform the speaker of the House. However, in the case of Kapil Mishra there was no need to inform anyone.
Speaking about DCP (North East), Ved Prakash Surya, who was standing beside Kapil Mishra when Mishra indulged in inflammatory remarks, but did nothing to stop or restrain him, Sharma said that he would have immediately demanded an explanation from Surya and if it was not satisfactory he would have suspended him forthwith.
Sharma agreed that the police seem scared of the BJP and intimidated by the government. He said the failure of the police to tackle the riots effectively suggests they have come under damaging political influence.
Speaking about how the police in the Delhi high court responded to questions by Justice Muralidhar (then of the Delhi High Court) that they had not seen the inflammatory videos of hate speech by Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra, Sharma said this was clearly the wrong answer. Even if a specific individual or commissioner had not seen the videos clearly the rest of the force would have done so. He accepted the claim the police had not seen the videos meant the police had not spoken the truth to the Delhi High Court. Please see the interview for accurate details of this point.
Sharma said a communal riot was the second most important challenge a country could face after an enemy attack. He accepted that if the police had acted immediately on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, when violence was simmering in Jaffrabad, the riot could have been prevented. He said this was clearly negligence and accepted that it also suggested irresponsibility.
Questioned about the videos on social media, which show the police standing by and watching as rioters set muslim shops on fire or show the police themselves taunting muslims with lathis and asking them to sing ‘Jana Gana Mana’, Sharma said that although he had not seen these videos himself if they were accurate they clearly suggested the police in Delhi has become communal. He said this suggests there is a much deeper malaise affecting the Delhi Police.
Speaking about the present Police Commissioner, Amulya Patnaik, who retires on February 29, Sharma said that he faced a very tough test but had failed to pass it.
Speaking more generally about the leadership of the police, he said it seemed that they lack spine and moral character.
Sharma also accepted a point made by NSA Ajit Doval that people don’t “trust the men in uniform … people are doubting the capabilities and intentions of Delhi police.”
Sharma said recent months have been a very bad time for the Delhi Police. They did not handle the incidents in Jamia and JNU properly.
In part two of the interview (after the commercial break), Sharma says that the most important thing is to isolate police from political interference. He says this can be done by ensuring that when DGPs are chosen it’s from a list of three or four names and chief ministers are not permitted to appoint their favourites.
Secondly, every senior police officer should have a fixed tenure which can only be curtailed for very specific reasons. Sharma said if the so-called Prakash Singh guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in 2006 had been properly and effectively implemented it would have made a huge difference to the independence of the police force and its effectiveness.
Sharma said the second most important task to correct the malaise in the Delhi Police has to be tackled by the police itself but it does require political support. This is proper training and discipline. Most importantly, police constables, who man local police stations and are, therefore, the first point of contact of the people with the police, must be taught and trained to be friendly, efficient and polite. At this point he compared British policemen, who are called Bobbies, with Indian policemen who evoke suspicion and fear. There’s a lot more in Ajay Raj Sharma’s courageously outspoken interview. The above is a paraphrased precis of some of the highlights. Many other points made by him – often as important – may not be included in this precis simply because they were not remembered at the time of writing. So please see the full interview below for its dramatic content.