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Jan 29, 2013 at 09:12am IST

Maharashtra: Police draws sharp criticism, faces scrutiny over Dhule riots

Mumbai: In the wake of the Dhule riots, visuals of the Mumbai Police seen vandalising and assaulting civilians have drawn sharp criticism. The city's law and order machinery has come under fire with some accusing it of having an obvious bias.

Twenty years on, 58-year-old Akhtari Tahir Waghle is yet to come to terms with her loss. Waghle family blames the police for the loss of their 17-year-old son Shahnawaz in the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. "The police took our son. We said he was just a young student and asked why were they taking him, but the police asked me to shut up. They were threatening us," Akhtari said. "The police are responsible for his death," her husband Tahir Waghle said.

Recently, acts of the Maharashtra Police were caught on camera with men in uniform going on a rampage during the Dhule riots in northern Maharashtra. Jaibun Nisa, a Dhule resident, said, "They broke doors and walls. The policemen beat me. I have injuries on my arms."

The government has already ordered for the suspension of the errant police officers. Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said, "Both the CM and I have seen the CCTV footage. At that moment itself we took the decision to suspend the policemen in question."

Even as the action against the policemen appeared indecisive and hesitant, lawyers and activists say this incident reflects the continuing bias in policing while tackling riots. Senior advocate Yusuf Hatim Muchhala said, "It completely shows bias at all levels. There is no improvement in the mentality of the police since 1992."

Former police commissioners acknowledge that bias exists, but insist it isn't widespread. Dr PS Pasricha, former police chief, said, "By and large my answer will be no. But I'll be telling a lie if I totally disapprove and I deny it."

From the alleged bias of the police in 1992-93 to the blatantly communal poem in the police journal by an officer, the city police activists say, are guilty of bias. But the key to a systemic change, many say, is police reforms and immediate stringent action against erring officials. Not just this, but the role of civil society is also crucial in bringing about a change.