Friday, January 28, 2005

Is situation under control?

Is situation under control?
Last week’s mob violence over Benny Hinn caught the Bangalore police on the wrong foot. With their personnel occupied with other duties, the miscreants ran amok and held the city to ransom for a few hours. Could the police have prevented this, Ashwin Raj asks police commissioner S. Mariswamy.

The Times of India

Bangalore has never seen such unprecedented crowds. Was the police prepared to h a n d l e them?
T he crowd was i n d e e d huge, perhaps the largest we have hand l e d . T h o u g h similar bandobast has been made for earlier programmes, including the one by RSS in 2002, the situation was different this time. Additional forces, including a company of Rapid Action Force, were deployed at the venue and in sensitive areas. By and large, the city remained peaceful except for stray incidents of stone-pelting.

Can police exercise control over mobs when they go on the rampage?
The main role of police is to maintain law and order. With adequate deployment, the force can handle any eventuality. Additional forces can be mobilised as and when required. In some cases, preventive arrests are made when there is fear of violence breaking out.

Was the police caught offguard when violence broke out on the first day of the Benny Hinn event?
We did apprehend trouble in some parts of the city. Though a large number of personnel were at the venue, many were deployed in sensitive areas for Bakrid and for security of the Chilean President who was on a two-day visit to Bangalore. One group had also called for a Bangalore bandh.
Miscreants attacked vehicles, mainly BMTC buses, in many parts of the city. Personnel were mobilised quickly and the situation was brought under control in a short time.

What action was taken against culprits? Will it be a deterrent?
Over 150 persons have been booked under various charges, including rioting and damage to public property. They are punishable under various sections of the law. Preventive measures can be taken to avoid such violence. Though strict action can be a deterrent, there is a law for every offence.

In the DOCK

Name: S. Mariswamy
Age: 59
Qualification: BA, Mysore University
Address: Office of the Commissioner of Police, Infantry Road.
A 1972 batch IPS officer, Mariswamy hails from Sattegal in Kollegal taluk. He took over as Bangalore police commissioner in May 2003 and has since been witness to various changes in the city, including compounding traffic and civic problems. A practical officer who says there cannot be a city like Bangalore without crime, he also believes it can be curbed with adequate measures.

Before taking over as commissioner, he was ADGP (administration) where he was instrumental in setting up welfare measures for personnel. After his first posting as additional superintendent of police in Shimoga, he served in various posts, including secretary in the home department and IG (technical services), in his service spanning over 30 years.


S.C. BURMAN, former DGP

When police have to handle such large numbers, a format needs to be followed. And that includes crowd-control and management. It also demands a study into the nature of issues involved, the kind of protesters and political parties. A thorough assessment should be done, and apart from mobilising officers, personnel should be briefed about the anticipated trouble, which is most important. The answer to such a situation is not mere deployment of thousands of policemen, but how they are utilised.

In the context of the recent event, many common techniques of crowd management hadn’t been applied and the police were taken by surprise. Knowing the mood of the protesters, the police needed to be more vigilant.

Preventive arrests of important activists and interception of mobs rushing to the city from rural areas in vehicles were the minimum steps they could have taken.


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