New Delhi: A survey of nearly 200 Muslims across the country regarding perceptions they hold about the police, has found that an overwhelming majority feels targeted and victimised by the police based on their identity. The results of the survey, undertaken jointly by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Quill foundation in eight cities, were released on Friday.
The CHRI and Quill held focussed group discussions and interviews for the purpose of the survey to gauge perceptions about policing. The organisations also interviewed 25 former police personnel who are Muslim. The report noted:
“The overall picture is of a community that feels acutely discriminated against by the police. Respondents say they do not trust the police to protect their physical safety or legal rights, and in fact, there is an overwhelming feeling that Muslims are harassed, victimised and targeted by the police based on their distinct identity.”
The survey found that a large proportion of Muslims interviewed felt that they were constantly at threat of being detained, abused or incarcerated. It also found that Muslim women felt the double burden of being a Muslim and a woman.
It also pointed out that a less than proportionate representation of Muslims in the police force is a key factor that adds to the sense of marginalisation. Muslims constitute 14% of the country’s population, but only 8% of the police force is Muslim. But, they represent 21% of the total under-trials and 16% of all convicted prisoners.
Another part of the problem that came forth in the discussions, was the archaic Police Act of 1861. The report said:
“It has remained virtually unchanged since 1861. As a result, policing in India remains colonial in structure and continues to act as an institution of coercive state control.”
Zafarul Islam Khan, chairperson of the Delhi Minority Commission, who was present at the release of the report, said, “The Police Act is a ruler-supported Act,” he said, “There have been many committees over the years to change this law to bring it in line with how policing is enacted in other countries, but to no avail.”
K. Ramanujan, former director general of police in Tamil Nadu was also present at the release of the report and said that the concerns expressed by the Muslim community could also be felt by the wider population. “If the police perceives the Muslim community as a threat, the community will also feel threatened by the police,” he said.