Dr Vedabhyas Kundu
The police of my conception will, however, be of a wholly different pattern from the present-day force. Its ranks will composed of believers in nonviolence. They will be servants, not masters, of the people. The people will instinctively render them every help, and through mutual co-operation they will easily deal with the ever-decreasing disturbances.
The police force will have some kind of arms, but they will be rarely used, it at all. In fact the policemen will be reformers. Their police work will be confined primarily to robbers and dacoits. Quarrels between labour and capital and strikes will be few and far between in a nonviolent State, because the influence of the nonviolent majority will be so great as to command the respect of the principal elements in society. Similarly there will be no room for communal disturbances. - Mahatma Gandhi , H, 1-9-1940, p 265
Mahatma Gandhi’s dreams of a police force whose ranks would comprise of believers in nonviolence. He also talks enhanced engagement with citizens and that citizens would help the police. He observes that through mutual co-operation it would be easier to handle disturbances. He further talks of the police force playing the role of reformers and hopes that in a nonviolent state, the police would have to deal only with robbers and dacoits.
In another place, Bapu underlines how riots and disturbance can be quelled through nonviolent action. He says, “To quell riots nonviolently, there must be true ahimsa in one’s heart, an ahimsa that takes even the erring hooligan in its warm embrace. Such an attitude cannot be cultivated. It can only come as a result of prolonged and patient effort which must be made during peaceful times. The would-be members of a peace brigade should come into close touch and; cultivate acquaintance with the so-called goonda element in his vicinity. He should know all and be known to all and win the hearts of all by his living and selfless service. No section should be regarded as too contemptible or mean to mix with. Goondas do not drop from the sky, nor do they spring from the earth like evil spirits. They are the product of social disorganization, and society is therefore responsible for their existence. In other words, they should be looked upon as a symptom of corruption in our body politic. To remove the disease we must first discover the underlying cause. To find the remedy will then be a comparatively easy task.” (Harijan, 15-9-40)
Here Mahatma Gandhi stresses on the need to nurture ahimsa in one’s heart in order to handle disturbances and conflicts through nonviolent means. He observes that bad elements in the society or ‘goondas’ do not ‘drop from the sky’. He points out that these elements are products of the social disorganization. Bapu emphasizes on the need to critically understand the underlying causes of these disorders so that a remedy which would be beneficial to all can be found out.
Bapu argues that violence cannot be appropriately dealt through violence only. In a civilized society, there is no place for hatred, rage and resentment. Hence even those who are committing crimes should not be seen with hatred or deal violently. He says, “If violence is answered by violence, the result is a physical struggle. Now, a physical struggle inevitably arouses in the minds of those directly and even indirectly concerned in it emotions of hatred, fear, rage and resentment. In the heat of conflict all scruples are thrown to the winds, and all the habits of forbearance and humaneness, slowly and laboriously formed during generations of civilized living, are forgotten. Nothing matters any more except victory. And when at last victory comes to one or other of the parties, this final outcome of physical struggle bears no necessary relation to the right and wrongs of the case; not in most cases, does it provide any lasting settlement to the dispute.”
The Mahatma’s ideas of a nonviolent police force and enhanced police-citizen engagement to handle crime are relevant more than ever before. As one of the largest democracy of the world, it would be pertinent to promote policing based on values of democracy and the Mahatma’s principles of nonviolence and mutual respect. The notion of police being just enforcers is a limited concept instead it should be seen as upholders of law. Enforcing is a more authoritarian concept and the Mahatma’s ideas of ‘ahimsa from the heart’ and nonviolence may not fall within its realm; upholders of law need to be more disciplined and courageous. Nonviolent action can be used while upholding the law of the land. The aim of the police must not only be to respect, but also protect the rights guaranteed to each citizen by the Constitution.
The police force in India faces a variety of challenges and the police people are expected to work in extreme conditions. They are forced to handle wide ranging responsibilities including a) maintain routine law and order; b) riot control; c) crime investigation; d) protection of state assets; e) VIP protection; f) Traffic control. With these varied responsibilities, majority of the police personnel become stressful. The pressure cooker atmosphere sometimes becomes a limiting factor in the police unable to handle conflict in the context of what Bapu had advocated, ‘ahimsa from the heart’. Notwithstanding these challenges different police forces across the country do make conscious effort to promote police-citizen engagement and try to integrate techniques where minimum force needs to be used. The enhanced police-citizen engagement is important as it is clear that the police cannot be successful in achieving their mission without the support and involvement of the people they serve. Crime is not solely a police problem, and it should not be considered as such. Rather, crime must be regarded as a community problem. Thus, it is important for the police department to involve the community in its operations and promotion of nonviolent communication and action can enhance the relationship.
In an endeavor to integrate Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a nonviolent police force and contribute towards greater police-citizen engagements, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti has embarked upon an ‘Orientation Programme for Police Officers on Nonviolent Communication and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution’ in different states of India.
Gandhi had said, “Nonviolence is a power which can be wielded equally by all--children, young men and women or grown-up people, provided they have a living faith in the God of Love and have therefore equal love for all mankind. When nonviolence is accepted as the law of life, it must pervade the whole being and not be applied to isolated acts.”
In this context, it would be wrong to believe that police and nonviolent action cannot be synonymous; in fact contemporary policing demands how to tackle situations without having to resort to force.
The Objective of the Orientation Programmes are:
1. Make an inventory of different approaches to nonviolent communication and use them in Policing;
2. To list different techniques of nonviolent conflict resolution and apply them in their work situation;
3. To integrate Gandhian techniques of nonviolent conflict resolution and apply them in their actual policing duties;
4. To empower communities in their jurisdiction to actively engage with the Police and initiate joint Police-Community interventions using nonviolent techniques for crime prevention and safe neighbourhoods.
5. Work on an enhanced Police-Public cooperation, public participation in crime prevention and effect positive changes in public perception of the image of the Police
The expected outcome of these Orientation Programmes would be adoption of nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent communication methods by the Police. By using these approaches there can be greater police-citizen engagement and development of a nonviolent police force.
How the Orientation Programme can benefit the Police?
· The Gandhian nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent communication can be an important tool for police officers and police administrators in their efforts to resolve social conflicts, interpersonal and other types of conflicts at both individual and community level.
· The Police are often called by the public to resolve conflicts between individuals and groups. Sometimes these conflicts can be volatile and has potential for violence. Without having to resort to violence or force can make the job of police much easier and safer. By resorting to violence as the only means to quell clashes can result in police officers themselves getting hurt.
· By adopting the Gandhian principles of nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent communication, the police can avoid many conflicts with the public.
· In conflict situations, not all are involved in violent conflicts. Using the tools of nonviolence and engaging those in conflicts through continuous education and community involvement will help resolve the disputes in much healthier manner.
· As violent methods adopted by the Police could result in creating angry or antagonistic citizens, by using the techniques of nonviolent conflict resolution and communication, the police officers could increase their effectiveness as law enforcement officers.
· Integrating nonviolent practices is likely to enhance the image of the police and could help in developing greater linkages with the citizenry. Citizen cooperation is extremely important for effective policing. Cooperative citizens can help report crimes, provide information, identify suspects and testify in courts.
· As establishment of police legitimacy is critical for effective policing in a democratic country like India, use of nonviolent conflict resolution techniques and nonviolent communication can contribute towards enhancement of the legitimacy.
· In most of the conflict situations, police officers are expected to mediate between different groups. As the Gandhian techniques of nonviolent conflict resolution aims at creating a win/win situation for all parties involved in the conflict, use of such techniques can counter possibilities of violent confrontations and social unrest.
· As Mahatma Gandhi had shown to the world that nonviolence is extremely effective, using these techniques will allow police officers to gain respect from the community and operate on high moral ground.
· Continuous education, nonviolent communication methods and reconciliation are tested tools to reduce tensions and discontent in the community.
· The Gandhian approach to nonviolent conflict resolution and nonviolent communication are consistent with the thrust being given to community policing. In fact, the Gandhian philosophy can take policing beyond the approaches of community policing by facilitating police to become leaders in social harmony.