With news reports focusing on the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board (UPPRPB) announcements for the next round of recruitments, where it is said to be recruiting for the posts of constable, firemen, and jail warder- there are 51,216 vacancies for Constable, 1,924 vacancies for firemen, and 3638 vacancies for Jail Warder, I’m sitting and pondering over the very relevant basics to the diversity factor, or much rather the lack of it, in the police force.
It’s a known fact that the percentage Muslims in the IPS is low as compared to the population. And if one were to focus on the Agencies and the police force and the paramilitary, then we are faced with another dismal reality.
During an interview given to me in January 2010, (just months before his death), Omar Khalidi had detailed - "Most of the intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces in India do not mirror the diversity of the national population.” Khalidi, who was then attached to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA, had been writing extensively on the social and economic profile of Muslims in India, had also focused on the fact that Muslims were better represented during the colonial rule and that their representation in Independent India was dismal.
He was categorical in stating that “the Minorities were better represented in the colonial army and police than it is today. Assam Rifles, India's oldest paramilitary force is composed primarily of Gorkhas- both foreign Nepalis and domiciled; though Assam is nearly 30% Muslims, few Muslims are found in the Assam Rifles.”
He also drew contrasts between the police composition in colonial India and the changes that came about after Independence- "The division of British India in mid- 1947 and the abolition of the Princely States heralded major changes in the composition, though not in the organization of the Police. On 30 June 1947 the Indian Police consisted of 516 officers, including 323 Europeans, 63 Muslims and 130 Hindus and others. The overwhelming majority of the British officers opted for retirement and compensation for loss of career and practically all the Muslim officers opted for Pakistan.”
“The police officers of Punjab and Bengal were to be divided on communal lines. The Punjab Police had a total strength of 35,457 at the beginning of 1947. East Punjab was left with only 30% thereof on August 15. The Hindu officers and men in the N.W.E.P and in the Sindh Police were allowed to migrate to India. In the remaining provinces a large number of Muslims from the ranks of the DyS P (Deputy Superintendent of Police) to the ranks of constable were likewise allowed to migrate to Pakistan. This resulted in a serious depletion of the police in all the northern princely states of India, and to a lesser extent in Bombay, Madras, CP and Orissa."
The political rulers of the day cannot talk of diversity in the actual sense of the term if there is a near absence of men and women from the minority communities in the police force
Khalidi had also commented that the discrimination of keeping Muslims out of the police force wasn’t a very recent one but started years back. "When on the recommendation of the National Integration Council (NIC) in 1969, the Home Minister YB Chavan merely broached the idea of recruiting Muslims in the police force, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the precursor of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) opposed it as 'an invitation to disaster'.”
Commenting on the ethnic and religious composition of the security forces in India, Khalidi had detailed- “There is a clear and consistent pattern of recruitment in the army. The army’s infantry regiments are still recruited in states and areas with “martial races”, i.e. in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and western UP.”
“These so called “martial races” are Hindu, Sikh and Gorkha. There are very few Muslims among the jawans and still fewer among the officers. Officers are fewer partly because of the educational level of Muslims is much lesser, and thus the ability to compete in the UPSC examination, is poor. Dalits are also conspicuous by their absence. Christians are well represented in the officer class. The Rapid Action Force of the CRPF has a good representation of Muslims. The composition of police is also somewhat similar. There are far fewer Muslim police officers, and within that a tiny number of IPS officers.”
To quote from his book - Khaki and the Ethnic Violence in India, “Consonant with the general pattern nationwide, there are only few Muslims in the Gujarat Police; 6.2% of the total according to VN Rai. It is estimated that out of the several hundred state police officers a mere 65 are Muslims. Only one such officer, RK Qadiri became an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Ahmedabad. Of the 136 IPS officers, a mere five are Muslim, according to the National Police Academy.”
I had also asked Khalidi on the way out from this and he was quick to point out two crucial rectifiers - “Since Muslims are not well represented in the IPS, there is every justification for a reservation for them. Simultaneously, there ought to be widespread coaching for minorities to compete successfully in the UPSC examination.”
The atrociously low percentage of Muslims in the police force of the country continues to this day. Needless to add, it is a worrying trend. The political rulers of the day cannot talk of diversity in the actual sense of the term if there is a near absence of men and women from the minority communities in the police force.
The change not only includes more coaching centers but pressure should also be built up and sustained for transparency at the recruitment level. We ought to be informed regarding the details of those rejected and on what grounds they failed the tests. Together with that, the lists of those recruited on the police force and the relevant backgrounders to them. We ought to know who is policing us! Who all will be policing us in the near future! After all, there are apprehensions and fears of Right Wing politics and policies intruding every possible sphere.