By Prarthana Mitra
Last week, this image of a Sikh cop shielding a young Muslim boy from an angry mob broke the internet.
The incident that took place in Uttarakhand and could have amounted to yet another nameless lynching had it not been for sub-inspector Gagandeep Singh’s timely intervention, also found a place in the columns of BBC.
On May 25, a Muslim boy seen lurking around a temple in Ramnagar allegedly to meet a Hindu girl, was almost instantly gheraoed by the residents who took it upon themselves to teach him a lesson for transgressing into their space. Singh, who rushed to the venue and eventually quelled the mob violence, was later allegedly criticised by local BJP leaders for trying to save a Muslim.
But by then, social media had done its job and the powerful image produced sentiments of pride and fellow-feeling among the millions who saw and shared it across the internet.
Far from the madding crowd of Ramnagar…
A couple of days after the Ramnagar incident, three cross-dressers came in a direct crossfire of a 1500-strong mob in Hyderabad. Although Constable Ravi, Inspector Y. Prakash Reddy and Inspector N. Shanker were able to rescue two of them, Swamy and Narasimha, the other became a martyr to mob hysteria and trans-hate triggered by a fake WhatsApp rumour.
The police officers were subject to the crowd’s furious frenzy and animosity which attained inordinate proportions within minutes. But the trifecta led by Constable Ravi displayed immense courage and resilience in taking them on. Their feat has even drawn praise from the state government, who commended Ravi, the first responder to the scene, for not backing down even when confronted by stone pelters.
We salute the bravery of Constable Ravi of @hydcitypolice who struggled & risked his life to save a crossdresser from fury of a 1500 strong mob. Special words of appreciation also for his colleagues Shankar & Insp Y Prakash Reddy.#MondayMotivatonhttps://t.co/hEuYBhblVl
— IPS Association (@IPS_Association) May 28, 2018
What is it about these acts of police bravery that warrants such attention, evokes such pride and reinstates public faith in the institution of law enforcement?
The most cynical amongst us could claim these acts fall well within the purview of a cop’s duties, and justifiably so.
However, in light of the steadily diminishing image of the Indian police system that rings with negligence, red tape and nonchalance, such acts of selflessness and valour are not only praiseworthy but also rare and unexpected. Singh and Ravi’s integrity complements an absence of ulterior agenda or hesitation to sacrifice their own lives, thus reminding the flawed system the policeman’s oath to serve and protect a nation’s people, irrespective of class or creed.
When Singh noticed the mob and saved the young boy, he did not for once think about the victim’s caste or religion. It is this that makes his act so profound and poignant in such trying times when the communal atmosphere in the country is rife with disharmony and intolerance. Nowadays, law enforcement officials themselves kindle and condone such anti-religious sentiments, and thus Singh’s deed embodies a political rhetoric rather than an anecdote for a heroic deed.
In much the same way, Ravi rushed to the rescue of a member of another marginalised community, the LGBTQ. Eking out their existence by begging and doing other menial jobs on the streets, cross-dressers in India face constant berating from society and very little support from law enforcement officials. The local constable’s act may enable people like Swamy and Narasimha to reclaim public spaces without the constant fear of being lynched, and perhaps avoid unfortunate deaths like their friend, Chandraiah’s.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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