Policy Watch No.1

Passive Police: Institutional Learning Through Inquiry Commissions

Commissions of inquiry set up by the Indian state in three instances – the anti-Sikh riots (1984), the Mumbai riots (1992-93), and, the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat (2002) - have repeatedly pointed to police inaction and passivity as contributing to a worsening of the immediate tense communal situation, resulting in a higher death count. In this paper, Vasundhara Sirnate examines the findings of three official reports of commissions of inquiry that dealt with these specific communal riots. She finds that in New Delhi in 1984, in Mumbai in 1992-93 and in Gujarat in 2002, the reports suggest similarities in the behaviour of the local police. She argues that a combination of factors affects institutional learning in this context – pre-existing police biases that translate into inaction and passivity and the lack of institutionalised mechanisms to transfer learning to the local levels of the police at lower ranks.

Commissions of inquiry set up by the Indian state in three instances – the anti-Sikh riots (1984), the Mumbai riots (1992-93), and, the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat (2002) - have repeatedly pointed to police inaction and passivity as contributing to a worsening of the immediate tense communal situation, resulting in a higher death count. In this paper, Vasundhara Sirnate examines the findings of three official reports of commissions of inquiry that dealt with these specific communal riots. She finds that in New Delhi in 1984, in Mumbai in 1992-93 and in Gujarat in 2002, the reports suggest similarities in the behaviour of the local police. She argues that a combination of factors affects institutional learning in this context – pre-existing police biases that translate into inaction and passivity and the lack of institutionalised mechanisms to transfer learning to the local levels of the police at lower ranks.



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