Search for a Value Worth Dying For..

20140627-225227-82347256.jpgYesterday I was listening to some lovely old Marathi songs on the internet radio on my phone and the theme was ‘patriotism’. One of the songs was Veer Savarkar’s ‘ne majasi ne’ a poem he wrote while in England and expressing a great longing to return to the motherland. Though this song was not exactly doing that, many songs in this genre, extol the sacrifice and martyrdom of our soldiers.

It got me thinking- why doesn’t the sacrifice of policemen get the same status in people’s’ minds? The act of a soldier laying down his life is seen as a supreme sacrifice made by him for upholding the value of our national integrity and identity. Whereas policemen laying down their life while doing their duties is not seen as protecting any specific value.

Police personnel have been killed while controlling mobs, or while performing duties in Naxal areas or while fighting terrorism or even while taking action against mafia activities in mineral rich areas of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc. But these incidents have rarely gone beyond being news. So has there been a deficit in focusing the police role on a particular value? And if so, what should be the value which police, as an organization, should be seen as protecting even with their lives?

In the past, we have had situations like the Salman Rushdie incident at the literary festival in Jaipur. The police handling that incident was perceived as ‘not protecting freedom of speech or liberty’. The argument from the police side was that they had to impose restrictions in order to keep peace, indicating that the majority in the society is not ready to accept tolerance of free speech and would disturb public order. So if a law and order situation does occur and some policemen die in the incident while controlling a mob, it would not be seen as a sacrifice to protect any revered value. The policeman’s death is also likely to be perceived in public memory as just a job risk.

In Naxal affected areas, the police department loses a lot of its men. What value do the police seem to be protecting with their lives there? Democracy? I’m not sure that it is such a clear cut idea to perceive. Also, the idea that development needs to reach the grassroots in those areas and police is enabling that, even at the cost of their lives, is not clearly identified as very valuable in public perception because of the otherwise rampant corruption in government service delivery in most developmental activities elsewhere. So the sacredness of the policeman’s death is lost in the confused public perception.

Bringing clarity to a value worth protecting with one’s life, is not easy to identify in the large expanse of the policing canvas. But it just might be a useful exercise for the police to strategise on how to bring clarity to the different core values worth protecting with their life, in different functional units of police. It could motivate policemen and the organization towards a sacred, higher goal and at the same time each policeman’s death will get the deserved public  respect and honour, of a martyr to a sacred cause.

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10 thoughts on “Search for a Value Worth Dying For..

  1. Clearly a soldier is perceived to live, work and die for the country and the martial life and death are commemorated as such. Here is no gray area. A police person is a part of the citizenry and is judged by each according to his or her own personal experience in transactions with him/her. Such a judgement is sometimes biased, flawed.So the police is perceived through a variety of personal prisms. Most of these judgments are harsh because unlike the military the police do not shoot enemies and be done with it. “Values” you are referring to are perceptions, coloured and complex. The enemy is often not in uniform, not a foreign national. Veer Savarkar is still not accepted in some circles as a pure patriot, even Subhas Bose. I see that you want clarity about core values. Let us define these core values for a starter.

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    1. Dear Sir
      Thank you for your comments. I agree that the public perceptions about police will always be coloured by the quality of interpersonal interactions between people and police. Unlike the relatively insulated armed forces. But my concern was with the relatively low cost for a policeman’s death in the public mind as compared to the martyrdom of a soldier an can we do something about it. For that, I felt sharpening the identification of the ‘value to die for’ in our various functions, just might be a worthwhile exercise.
      On Veer Savarkar, this poem is a gem and clearly inspired by patriotic feelings from deep in his heart. Since it is in Marathi, I looked up the Net and found this translation. http://shaileshdargude.blogspot.in/2009/05/poem-ne-majasi-ne-was-written-by-v.html.
      Rgds

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  2. Dear Pradnya, What a lucid exposition of a thought, that has remained a constant feature on the troubled conscience of policemen and their near and dear ones. I suggest that the following para may be sent to the state Security Commission for necessary action. “Bringing clarity to a value worth protecting with one’s life, is not easy to identify in the large expanse of the policing canvas. But it just might be a useful exercise for the police to strategise on how to bring clarity to the different core values worth protecting with their life, in different functional units of police. It could motivate policemen and the organization towards a sacred, higher goal and at the same time each policeman’s death will get the deserved public respect and honour of a martyr to a sacred cause” Regards,SS PuriMH 67.

    Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2014 18:40:02 +0000 To: iamsspuri@hotmail.com

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  3. Reconciling the conflicting values of liberty and peace is the essence of policing – we have to protect human rights of all (including the suspects and the rebellious) while keeping the peace, with minimum use of our coercive powers. This would be the value worth dying for.

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    1. Dear Sir

      I agree with your comment. In any free and democratic country, the police should uphold the human dignity of all citizenry. There has to be a basic respect for another human being and that understanding should not be suppressed under the weight of his criminal record. Also this principle needs to be communicated across the rank and file clearly.

      Rgds

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  4. One of the recent Freakonomics podcasts covers the case of Marius, the giraffe (http://freakonomics.com/2014/04/24/which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-avocado-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/).

    “Marius lived at a zoo in Copenhagen. Zoo officials said he was a “surplus” animal: too genetically similar to other giraffes, and therefore he couldn’t breed. It was kinder, they said, to kill him. So they fed him some rye bread (“his favorite food”), shot him in the head, and dissected him in front of a crowd of onlookers, including kids. Next they fed his corpse to the lions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the world reacted with outrage.

    How did this compare to the outrage expressed over the killing of more than 146,000 people during the ongoing civil war in Syria? Not quite commensurate.”

    The first point made in the podcast was about people feeling more concerned about what is physically closer. Now, unfortunately, people have negative feelings towards police (most commonly due to the corruption on the street), who are nearer them, rather than police personnel dying in a extremism-affected areas (out of sight and out of mind).

    The second point is about numbers having no emotional connect. As famously said by Stalin, “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” While the MHA adds up the numbers every year and it is said that the number of policemen who died in internal conflict far exceeds deaths of soldiers in wars since Independence, for the ordinary citizen, it is a curious factoid and nothing more. What really shapes and moves public opinion is a powerful story. Stories capture our imagination and the emotions generated change attitudes and behaviours.

    If the police leadership is really concerned about the lack of recognition, they should get these stories in the public domain. Tukaram Omble’s name and valour will live on only in a book and a film. Somebody needs to create those.

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  5. You echo my feelings, Pradnyan. I have always wondered – is the cops’ toil so ‘useless’ that it does not even invite ‘understanding’ within his close circle of family and friends, much less the society? Look at the way we handle such ‘ultimate sacrifice’ even within the department. Senior officers would not lose their sleep in such cases. No wonder that the society/friends/family also view it as a waste!! The situation would change only when the ‘sacrifice’ is treated as one by the department first and then the others would follow suit. Have and demonstrate your genuine sympathy for the late departed and follow up to avenge it in the most lawful manner, give the family its due and keep their memory alive. Then only will the society also appreciate the loss of policeman.
    Keep the fire burning – and burning bright.

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  6. Very interesting thought pradyna… as a concerned citizens, we have often thought that policemen and women who go beyond their call of duty must be honoured and felicitated by us the citizens.
    However, every time we attempt to do that, we are blocked by service rules — a bunch of bureaucratic permissions are required and we are advised to keep the egos of senior officials in mind, especially when the person felicitated is a junior.
    Since most citizens groups are tiny, under-funded voluntary efforts, so the process of explaining our objective and getting permissions is daunting.
    How about persuading the police commissioner to create an online process of making such requests, which can be vetted by a small group of senior officers and cleared quickly.
    This is important, not merely to honours individuals who bring honour to their uniform, but also to create better rapport and trust with ordinary citizens.

    Moneylife Foundation would be delighted to take the lead in this effort. In fact, we are also looking to offer guidance to people with regard to their rights and remedies while dealing with IPC related issues. Most people are crushed by the process of ever having to deal with the metropolitan courts. Do you think retired or ex-police officers would be keen on working towards creating a police-citizens interface for better cooperation without being constricted by service rules?

    Some thoughts… I would love to hear from you on them!

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    1. Sucheta, thanks for your comment. Creating a platform for citizens’ appreciation for the good performance of individual policemen will certainly be motivational for further good performance beside bringing these hidden stories into public domain. I’m sure we can take this idea forward.

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