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Mumbai: From Marine Drive to Sunil More Drive

And the people in khaki and otherwise who are taking us there


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28 April, 2005: So a cop rapes a girl, who was with a boy after driving him away after threatening him with arrest. He is drunk, and when people force the door of the chowki open after he raped her for close to 40 minutes, he comes outside zipping up his pants and declaring "jo ukhad sakte ho, ukhad lo." He is beaten up, and later arrested. Curiously, he is not killed. 

Mumbai Police Commissioner AN Roy is an earnest man, and he is genuinely horrified at the event. His earnestness, and the repeated assertions on television that people should not consider this a reflection of the entire police force are indeed heartfelt. However, the Police Commissioner and the Joint Commissioner of police Javed Ahmed are misleading us with our best intentions at heart. It is time to tell them to stop protecting us that way Ė the truth of the rising criminality in the police is what we need.

For their own safety, the people should realise that the police could be worse than criminals at times - if unfortunately criminal-minded cops and circumstances come together. It is time that we tore away the myth that the police is a benign force and face up to reality. Mumbai Police Commissioner AN Roy and JCP Javed Ahmed are smart, well-meaning and well-educated gentlemen, but they know better than we the public about the criminal element in the police force. They have been in service long enough to know how evil their juniors can get, how corrupt and dangerous they can be. But they do not have a choice but to tell us that people should still trust the police. Their careers depend on it, and they are loyal to their institution. They have to say so. We do not have to believe them.

Too extreme an opinion? Recently, Mumbaiís Mid-Day newspaper decide to test out the honesty of the traffic cops Ė their reporter blasted music, did not wear a seat belt, and committed all possible traffic offenses Ė and every single policeman who caught him demanded and accepted a bribe let him go even though he did not have a license! Here are a few questions just to clarify your own thoughts. How many policemen are there in Mumbai who will not accept a bribe if offered to them? Have anyone of you ever offered a bribe to a policeman and found that he is offended (unless of course if the bribe is too little?)? How many times have they directly asked you or indirectly indicated to you that they want a bribe?

You may say that accepting or demanding a bribe is a small offence. Yes. But if 99 per cent of the policemen in Mumbai are willing to demand or accept a bribe, let us take a wild guess that 75 per cent of them would actually harass you in some way or the other if their demands are not met. I am sure you will agree to that too. 

Then is it not likely that at least one per cent of the cops in Mumbai could be potential murderers or rapists? After all, isnít violence a way of life for them, in the pursuit of solving crimes?

In fact, the disgusting crimes by cops in Mumbai are reported almost every day by newspapers, magazines, television and websites, and some simple research is all it would take you to figure out that yes, many policeman are in fact, a threat to civil society as well as what holds it together. Good and evil. Black and white. More black than white, but. 

Let us ask ourselves a few questions. Do we believe that there are more potential rapists among policemen than there are among teachers? Yes. More than among bank clerks? Yes. More than among pizza delivery boys? Yes. More than carpenters? Yes. More than bus drivers or motormen? Yes, we believe that too. 

These answers may be wrong. That does not matter. The answers you have in mind prove that we as individuals know it in our heads and hearts that when we talk to a cop, we are talking to someone who is dangerous. That perception is enough. Trust your instincts, protect yourself from the unknown. Better to be safe than sorry.

What about all the good work that the Mumbai police do? Of course they do good work. But what makes you think that cop who arrests a criminal will also deal fairly with someone who is innocent? There are no such guarantees. Be afraid, be very afraid. The cops are on the loose.

The rapist cop - Sunil Atmaram More

As Mumbai Police Commissioner AN Roy said, the man is the scum of the earth, a pervert. He was reprimanded 44 times before for minor issues. On that evening at Marine Drive, Mumbaiís Manhattan, his intentions were clear. The girl had come with a group of friends, and she and one boy had separated from the group and were among the rocks. More sensed his opportunity. Every cop in Mumbai or anywhere else in India knows the dread with which people approach them. He called them both over, realised that he has an opportunity here, and drove the boy away threatening him with arrest. He knew that the boy and the girl would be horrified about their parents' and society's reaction, if the fact that they were caught by a policeman became public.

Then he took the girl to the police chowki under the Marine Drive flyover where he locked the girl and raped her after slapping her into submission. It was only when the girl screamed out in terrible pain - she was too scared to even protest after he slapped her, probably - that passersby heard her screams and broke open the door.

The drunk police constable Sunil More walked out fixing his belt and zipping up his trousers, and challenged the people to do whatever they wanted, that he was with the Mumbai police and nobody could do anything to him. Media reports are not clear if he got beaten up or not, but he picked up his mobile phone and called his colleagues, asking them to 'send some forces; there are some problems here.'

The man is the scum of the society, and the worst of human beings, for misusing his position and authority as a protector of the law to ill-treat a young boy and girl, threaten them, and rape the girl brutally. He was drunk, but he was not too drunk to execute his plan perfectly. It was just that the girl screamed - or he would have escaped. The poor girl or the boy would never have had the courage to even complain to anyone - least of all the police - about this.

This makes one wonder. How many more Sunil Mores, how many more rapist and killer cops are out there in the streets of Mumbai? This is a matter of our lives and dignity, and blind trust will not do anymore. That dread you feel in your heart when a cop approaches you for your driving license or a routine car checking - it is a warning bell by your instincts, honed through millions of years of evolution. A man with the power to ruin your life, arrest you, throw you in a lock-up without arresting you, molest your wife or sister, a confirmed bribe-taker and potential hardcore criminal is approaching you. Listen to that voice.

Cops and Mumbai police in general

Trust me, we know them. We were scared of them when we were children, and we are scared of them now. Rightly so. Be scared. Because the so-called guardian of the law is often a half-literate, immoral rowdy who could not find a job, and the only job he could get with his minimum intelligence and educational qualifications is that of a constable.

This is not an insult to the thousands of good policemen in Mumbai. We know that you are not as educated or wealthy as the people whose lives are, in theory, under your protection. If society really has classes, you belong to the lower classes. In a cosmopolitan city, where people live the fast life, enjoy unheard of freedoms, the policeman is a grumpy, jealous, ill-paid grouch who is looking for someone to vent his frustration on. 

It can be the couple necking on the rocks at Marine drive or Bandra Seaface. It can be the guy who has a new Maruti Zen. It can be that dude with long hair and sunglasses. The cop knows that you are easy prey. The cop knows that calling you a behnchod in front of your wife, or girlfriend will humiliate you, and you will not hit him. He uses that power, and he exacts his revenge on all the people who are so far ahead of him in life by harassing them and demanding a bribe.

But the Mumbai cop lacks a spine too. Park a BMW in a no-parking zone, and he will be extremely polite. He will not tow it away. Neck with your girlfriend in a Toyota Lexus while your liveried chauffeur guards the car, and he will be extra-cautious. He knows the damage a rich man with connections can unleash on him. No law and order for you, you rich fat diamond merchant in your black S-Class Mercedes, that is only for the middle-class couple on a motorcycle. 

See, a cop knows his limits. Just the way he knows by instinct whom he can target, he knows by instinct who can ruin his life and behaves with utmost caution. A law-abiding, conscientious cop who deals fairly with everyone should be admired. Someone who harasses you because he knows that he has caught you for putting your arm around your girlfriend's waist in public - he is nothing better than the street-corner rowdy. He is your old school bully who would steal your pocket-money all grown up in a protector's clothing. 

This will not change in the foreseeable future. Not as long as Mumbai's policemen are in the condition where they are in. Good or bad, they are forced to take bribes as they get meagre salaries. Initially out of necessity, later out of habit, then because they start believing itís their birthright. Add to this the anger at his superiors, his work hours, permanently dealing with real crooks and criminals - and without realising it, he imbibes the behaviour of his colleagues, and starts considering every ordinary person who catches his eye as someone who needs to be taught a lesson.

Add to that the typical Indian loser's attitudes. I don't have a girl, how dare you have one? I come from a family where women wear only salwars, your legs are visible above your knees, so they are mine. To the Indian loser, anyone who enjoys a better life than he has, is an enemy, and all is fair in that class war. The average cop too knows that you are better off than him, and he wants to pull you a notch or two down. That's the average cop. For every hundred average cops, there may be a Sunil Atmaram More who wants to rape a few classy women and teach them who is really the boss. He knows the real classy women, or the Page 3 women are unreachable, so a helpless teen girl would do.

If we want to ensure that such things do not happen again, we should stop looking at pathetic, wimpy, piecemeal solutions. 

For example, immediately after the rape, the police announced that they would introduce special squads with breathalyzers who will check if the beat constables are drunk. What rubbish! The problem is hardly that policemen get drunk, thatís your departmental issue. What we as citizens want to be assured is that whether they are drunk or not, they should not be a danger to us. The citizens of Mumbai donít care whether the cop is drunk, whether he peed in pants and slapped a superior officer Ė we want him to do his duty. Which is to protect law and order, not to use the pretence of maintaining law and order to harass us. 

The police also announced that they will soon have a transparent chowki at Marine Drive with glass walls. Why? Do the police expect another rape to happen? If a transparent chowki is the best the Mumbai police can do, apart from assurances of no-further-wrong-doing, it really is a pathetic state. If a transparent chowki is a solution, what about the police stations? Will transparent police stations be next? After all, rapes and murders have happened inside police stations too. Or will we soon have security cameras to watch the policemen? Or what if a few policemen like More decide to gang-rape a woman after surrounding her so nobody can see what is going on? 

If the transparency of glass walls is the only thing that can restrain uncouth constablesí lack of hormone control, we should be more scared than before. The problem is not the chowki, or a single drunk constable. The problem is that enormous, unaccounted power is available in the hands of people who do not know how to handle it. That ridiculous laws are used to harass people under the pretext of protecting them. The solution is to put them in their place. The solution is to make sure that policemen are punished severely even for the smallest abuses. 

I would suggest that the police chowki at Marine Drive, where More raped the girl, be brought back there. I can already hear the cops protesting that it is a source of anger, and residents protesting that it will always be a reminder of the horrific incident. 

Stand up and stop crying! The chowki should come back, and it should always be there as a permanent reminder of what the police was, and is, capable of. Every morning when we pass by it for our morning walks, it should remind us of our perilous situation in the city which will be Vilasrao Deshmukhís Shanghai tomorrow. It should be adorned with a photo of More, with an engraved apology from the Mumbai police that they apologize for the presence of such criminals in their midst, and a solemn promise that they will ensure that every criminal in the police service would be weeded out.

Some wounds should never heal. They serve their purpose as they fester, smell and reek of pus Ė as reminders and beacons of the acts evil men are capable of. Israel has a holocaust museum to ruminate over their humiliation of 60 years ago. The Nazi concentration camps in Poland are preserved to remind the world of Hitlerís horrors. Nagasaki-Hiroshima memorials focus global attention on nuclear non-proliferation. Only nincompoops want to sweep their history of humiliation under the carpet and pretend like it never happened. The restored chowki should be the embodiment of the shame of the Mumbai police and the city which could do nothing to prevent the rape.

An apology by the Mumbai police to the entire city, and details of the specific steps they have taken in all the newspapers would also go some way. We need to see an abject apology, a grovelling on the ground, whatever is the equivalent of a bath in the Ganga for the entire police force. The shame is upon you men; wear sack clothes are beat your chests. We want to see that. We may trust you afterwards.

Shiv Sena's logic

We had almost forgotten about them, the Shiv Sena. The old toothless Tiger in his Bandra den. All through the protests, the Sena was quiet. Its alliance partner, the BJP, was actively protesting about the atrocity, but not the Sena. We were left wondering why. No longer.

After 4 days, the Sena comes up with its own explanation of what has gone wrong in Mumbai. The Senaís newspaper, Saamna, admits that what happened was inhuman, a crime, etc etc. Then, it goes on to say that nowadays, youngsters seem to be indulging in a competition to show off their underwear, wearing mini skirts, and what can a man do when faced with such provocationÖ? It asks. The article is unsigned. I think someone at Saamna is afraid of getting beaten up if his name is known. It canít be the Thackerays - the Thackerays can get away with worse in Mumbai.

Let us take up the Sena on its own reasoning for the rape. We are absolute believers in freedom of expression, and believe that the Sena has a right to say what it believes. So the Senaís point of view is that the Page 3 culture and attire of todayís youngsters are provocative, and that thus, it is understandable (not justifiable) why some men rape.

Very interesting. Now, let us say someone is really, really turned on by the nine-yard saree Ė the traditional Maharashtrian attire. Would it mean that such a provoked man raping someone clad in it be understandable, if not justifiable? I am sure Saamna does not mean that.

And whom does the Shiv Sena speak for? All Maharashtrians? All Shiv Sainiks? All Mumbaikars? If it is the Shiv Sainiks who may lose their self control and attack women dressed in provocative clothes, I humbly beg Mr. Bal Thackeray to order all of them to surrender at the nearest police station. If Thackeray believes that the statement is applicable to all Maharashtrians or at least some of them, I think that in the interest of public safety, he should appeal to them to look within and see if they are potential rapists. If they think so, please proceed to the nearest jail. Shiv Sena may be able to understand the workings of the rapistís mind; the civil society canít. We would rather have threats to the civil society behind bars.

Now we can see how ridiculous the Saamna argument is. Not one Maharashtrian is going to agree that he could be provoked to the point of rape by the clothes that women wear. No Sainik will agree either. And no one in their senses will. Probably the anonymous writer of the Saamna is the only one who is so easily provoked into committing rape. If not, we request him to please clarify exactly who he is talking about.

Also, if we talk about provocation and titillation as a reason for rape, what about the movies that Smita Thackeray produces? Arguably, her movies display scantily-clad women as much as any other Hindi movie. And you will never find anyone on the streets who is clad in the kinds of skimpy clothes that women in movies wear. So as a social service, will Smita Thackeray stop producing such films? Will the Senior Thackeray stop meeting any actor or actress who has gone half naked in their movies? No way. 

The article in Saamna is an insult to all men, and especially so to Maharashtrians and Mumbaikars, because the Sena claims to be speaking for them. Rape, is of course, understandable in many psychological terms. So is serial killing. So is dacoity and corruption. The important thing is to ensure that rapists and criminals do not enter the police force. Removing every provocation for every kind of crime is not possible, and the idea behind the success of modern societies is that you donít get provoked or insulted by what someone else does Ė you respect or ignore his choices, he ignores yours. Just because a few chauvinistic Sainiks get provoked, there is no need to take away the societyís freedoms. Probably there is a need for some people to be tied to lamp-posts and beaten till they learn to respect othersí freedoms, and I donít need to explain who they are. 



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