Guwahati is the gateway to the Northeast, but it is becoming increasingly dangerous for women to live, work or pass through the metropolis. Several heinous crimes including rape and murder have been committed against women in Guwahati in the last few days. The graph of crimes against women is rising fast, even though Guwahati police is now organized under a commissionerate system. When this system was introduced on New Year’s Day this year amidst much public expectation, it was said that Guwahati police will now become more ‘citizen-centric’, working with greater responsibility to serve the people. There was also much talk about focusing on civic policing, with greater coordition between citizens committees and the police in all the three police districts of Guwahati. The Guwahati police commissioner has been conferred the powers of a district magistrate, with an additiol commissioner to help him, followed by three deputy commissioners and other assistant commissioners under the commissioner, all of them vested with more powers. But has all this improved the situation on the ground? The separation of crime investigation work from routine law and order duties is yet to materialize in Guwahati’s police stations due to acute lack of manpower and resources. Night policing in Guwahati continues to remain a sham, with widespread allegations that policemen on the beat seem more interested in chasing loaded trucks than suspects or outright lawbreakers. Civic policing in Guwahati will remain a mere slogan until the police develops a cleaner, more trustworthy and approachable image to draw the people nearer. But it is also the duty of all public-spirited individuals and citizens groups to think deeply and campaign actively about how to ensure a safer neighborhood. After all, women groups have done it in Manipur, keeping an eye on bad characters and drunkards in their localities, and frequently hauling them off to police stations. Such public activism is necessary, though there is the danger of kangaroo courts and vigilante groups dishing out rough-and-ready justice. This is where the police needs to set up and maintain strong links with the public, so that the law is enforced effectively and justice ensured. The police commissionerate in Guwahati ought to live up to its me and expectations of the people.
Food for thought