Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lawkeepers Lawbreakers, Us Weepers

Last Sunday Sumon and I decided to take a ride on the Delhi Metro to my sister’s place in West Delhi. Commuting from the NCR has now become easier with the DMRC rolling into Noida. The metro station reminded me of those in Europe – the infrastructure is world class, and the maintenance almost so despite the lack of civic sense among the commuters.

It was a long journey that we had to take. So, having comfortably settled ourselves into one of the coaches – kept surprisingly clean despite the very high volume of commuters every day – we looked ahead to a pleasant journey for the next hour or so. But pleasant it was not to be. Two stops later, a large group of young men – more than 50 perhaps, boarded the train, about 20 of them in our coach. Suddenly, the decibel levels went up – once, a long time ago, loud conversations in public places would put me off. But having been in Delhi for so many years, and hearing loud music blaring from every nook and corner of every street, having had umpteen conversations with people who shouted at you as though you might be deaf, in short, having accepted the fact that either your ears have to get used to all the noise pollution or stop functioning, it didn’t come as much of a surprise to me. But offensive it definitely was. Every sentence the young men uttered was generously flavored with random expletives and delivered in a manner that said ‘we are rather proud of our vocabulary’.

One can often ignore such verbal indecency but what followed was an assault on the senses. Loud music started blaring from one of their mobile phones. The others started cheering him, and egging him on whenever he tried to switch it off. ‘Chala chala, dekhte hai kaun kya kehta hai (Play it, play it, we’ll see who says what),’ said one of them; another was mimicking the voice of the announcer over the train’s intercom, ‘Train ke andar music bajana mana hai (It is forbidden to play music on the train)’; and all of them were laughing and having a jolly good time.

Sumon turned to one of the quieter fellows wistfully watching his companions from the sidelines and asked where they had come from and where they were headed. He said they had all come from UP to apply for enlistment in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). ‘So these are our future lawkeepers?’ I thought. ‘These were the people who will be entrusted with ensuring the common citizen does not break the law?’

Suddenly, one of the louder fellows broke into poetry, spewing shayari. One after the other, his friends followed suit. And the gist of all their poetic outbursts was that being a soldier was a masculine job, where only the men who are worthy can enlist and even if they die in the course of defending their country, they would have died a manly death. It also became quite obvious that these hopefuls had come with a lot of jingoistic nonsense filled in their brains, without understanding the first thing about the real nature of their future job.

And while all this poetry of machismo was doing the rounds, I was watching one would-be soldier leering at a young woman seated opposite me, mentally undressing her and adjusting his crotch, and nearly salivating. I knew of course that he could not go beyond mentally raping her here, on the Delhi Metro, in the Delhi metro. But I could not help wondering what he would do if he was posted somewhere in the Northeast or in Jammu and Kashmir, armed with the impunity provided by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and let loose upon the populations there. It was clear to me what he would do – like some of his colleagues did during the ethnic riots of October last year, like so many of them do regularly, he would go around raping the women, and breaking every law in the book. But he would be untouchable because of the AFSPA.

I was safe, and women in Delhi generally were safe from them – oh, rapes do happen every other day here, but at least the perpetrators are not the lawkeepers who are given carte blanche to be the lawbreakers by the very system that employs them.


  1. Dear Jajabori,
    Read your blog and musing on the status of common men and women. Law keepers are Law breakers since time immemorial.

  2. true, true. and yet, we hang our faith on them...

  3. Hey uddipana,

    Congratulations on your book release.

    Came to your blog via facebook....cause your name and face seemed familiar.

    As for the law breakers/law keepers - do you think a firm but polite request to keep the language and music under control could not have been made?

    If we do not raise our voice where we can then should we be ruing the state of affairs we are letting the country and society slip into?

    Just a thought.

  4. hi pinku, thanks for your good wishes. so do i look familiar because we know each other or was it just a false alarm? :-)
    i believe that polite requests work with polite people, don't you?
    as for raising our voices, yes, we need to do more of that. everybody has their own way of doing it - some are activists, some do it through writing

  5. I read this post with interest since a friend is in India shooting photos for his next book "India: Portrait of a People"

    His name is Tom Carter, the author and photojournalist of "China: Portrait of a People".

    What impressed me most in this post was the power of your language to portray the men joining the ASFPA, which reminded me of Vietnam. I fought there in 1966 as a United States Marine.

    These men thinking and acting as if they are MACHO and tough just because they are joining is the norm for so many, yet when tossed in the fires of war, the harsh reality changes them quickly. I also write a Blog at

    about combat an Post Traumatic Stress. I live near San Francisco. If you don't mind, I'm going to provide a link at iLook China to your Blog.


  6. hi lloyd, thanks for your comment. since you are a vietnam vet, i am sure you know what trauma people go through in an atmosphere of violence and lawless aggression. read your blog with interest. PTSD is something that has always interested me, though i can't say i have much knowledge about it. do either of your novels deal with the syndrome?

  7. hi,

    yes you are more than familiar....we were in the same college IP.

    I was in divya/Nidhi's batch. I believe you were a year junior.

    Best of luck with all you do in life!