In India's conflict-ridden zones, 60% trust state police over army

Across the conflict-hit regions, a similar percentage of ordinary people (46) and the police (43) feel that the demands of Naxalites and insurgents are genuine but their methods are wrong
Three out of five people (60 per cent) in India’s conflict-ridden zones have a greater trust in the state police than the paramilitary/army for their safety and security, according to a new report.

Thirty-nine per cent also believe that the police are corrupt in conflict-affected regions, while 20 per cent shared such a perception of the paramilitary/army, says the Status of Policing in India Report 2020-21.

The report — based on a survey by the Centre for Developing Studies (CSDS), its research programme Lokniti, and advocacy group Common Cause, and supported by Tata Trusts and the Lal Family Foundation — covers left-wing extremism affected areas, the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir.

Its earlier two reports in 2018 and 2019 focused on the perceptions of people in more than 20 states and on the working conditions of policemen, respectively.

Across the conflict-hit regions, a similar percentage of ordinary people (46) and the police (43) feel that the demands of Naxalites and insurgents are genuine but their methods are wrong.

The report also collates data from the past few decades, which show that between 2001 and 2019 more than 68,500 incidents of violence were reported in these regions in which 23,283 civilians and security personnel lost their lives. Nearly 75 per cent of the incidents took place in the first decade, and about 45 per cent in the first five years.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the incidents of violence have lessened significantly since the 1990s and early 2000s with a marked decline in the number of casualties of civilians, security forces and terrorists despite a spike in the last four years.

In the red corridor, people cite inequality, injustice, exploitation and discrimination (14 per cent), followed by poverty (13) and unemployment (11) as the biggest reasons behind left-wing extremism.

Fifty-nine per cent people and 50 per cent policemen believe that it is wrong to disregard human rights in the name of national security. However, a much higher percentage of police (44) than common people (25) believes that human rights can be ignored in the interest of national security.

There is also a divergence of views over harsh laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the National Security Act. While an overwhelming majority (60 per cent) of police personnel believes that these are vital in containing extremism, only 30 per cent of the people concur.

Three-fourths of policemen (75 per cent) feel that addressing the question of development and providing better facilities would be very useful in reducing conflict. As against 75 per cent of people, nine out of 10 policemen also think that increasing the number of personnel would help in this regard.

Sanjay Kumar, professor and former director of CSDS, says that it is too early to track any changes in the popular perceptions of the police. And for a variety of reasons, including fear and hesitation on the part of respondents, the latest report lacked views of Kashmiris on the same.

He, however, points out that people are more opinionated and critical of government policies in the left-wing affected regions because they come across Naxalites more often than the people of the Northeast do with extremists. “The similarity is clear. In both regions, people say that the lack of development is the main cause of Naxalism or insurgency,” he says.

A second volume of the report will cover policing in the Covid-19 pandemic.

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