Can you imagine going to work each day and seriously wondering if you’ll survive your shift and see your family again? I’m sure most people can’t. But for the Meghalaya police and their families, that is an everyday fact of life.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a growing amount of misinformation, unwarranted negativity and, tragically, even physical and deadly assaults on some Meghalaya police personnel. Law enforcement isn’t an easy job, especially if one isn’t familiar with the people in the community.
The few cases of police misconduct have been magnified and exaggerated, mainly by photos and videos on social media. The resulting pressure on law enforcement is unfair. Of course, police misconduct must be openly investigated along with accountability. But all of us depend on protection from these men and women in khaki uniforms.
Meghalaya, like the rest of the country, faces countless threats from several anti-social elements, including from extremists where some groups even actively attempt to recruit the unemployed youth into their cause; especially ones with special skills such as the Lawei Ba Phyrnai hacker who was arrested in April last year. This is especially notable since today’s youth have skills that extremists wish.
In an age where anyone can access just about anything on the internet, unemployed youths from the state seem particularly at risk from dangerous radicalisation online. Social media algorithms are fuelling a rise in extremist views or conspiracies by creating echo-chambers online. And while it’s certainly not just young boys who are affected by internet propaganda, in Meghalaya at least, it seems that it is driving even grown men to lash out most violently. The motivation can vary enormously, and sometimes even law enforcers themselves are unable to find a reason at all.
In response to these developments, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya had in the past, pledged to intensify the government’s effort to combat extremism in the state. In addition, criminal investigations were launched and numerous agencies were ordered to probe into cases that had affected the state. Although terror groups mostly targeted police, and other government agencies–putting security agencies in the crosshairs of extremists, however the rise in the number of terrorist plots and attacks in the last decade indicates that insurgency here is a growing problem.
Let’s face it. Without the police we would have anarchy and lawlessness on the streets. Our lives would be in threat daily and we would not be able to live a safe and secure life and nor would our families. Police officers aren’t perfect – nobody is. Law enforcement isn’t perfect – no profession is. But, the careless spreading of misinformation, unwarranted negativity and violence being directed at our state police force has to stop. The men and women of this profession and their families sacrifice so much. Simply put, they deserve better.
For me to speak authoritatively on discrimination will irk some who have lived in the overt and covert darkness of prejudice. But as a proud son of a humble policeman, I thank the MLP wholeheartedly for keeping us safe. I also feel lucky to have lived in a state for almost 25 years, and that our relationship with the police is unlike those most other states have. I do not take this harmonious relationship for granted. That is saying a lot when you hear, read and see the fractured relationships other states have with their law enforcers. We need to support the complicated challenges our police force have when working in conjunction with a changing community.
As we celebrate this year’s Independence Day, we should also celebrate our dedicated and hardworking MLP. Whether they gave their lives in the line of duty and left behind a family who still mourn, whether they have retired, or continue to serve, Meghalayans owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women in khaki. It is fitting that we take a moment to go out of our way to stand up, speak up, and show up to let them know we appreciate them. Positive relationships are not based on controversial disagreements. So don’t let hate for the police grow… Jai Hind!
Joseph M. Kharkongor
Shillong – 793008