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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Gujarat police have inadequate protective shields

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: In the communal incident at Danilimda, Ahmedabad, in the second week of December last year, five policemen were injured. Rampaging mobs ransacked shops, burnt vehicles and pelted stones. 

Curiously, no one from the public was injured. In May last year, two police officials were injured in a communal violence at Shahpur and in January 2004, three cops were injured in a communal clash at Gomtipur.

Why cops get injured? Do they lack training in handling riot situations despite facing a riot of massive scale in 2002? Senior police official said that policemen sustain minor injuries in their bid to control communal clashes.

But nobody from the public comes forward to report injuries out of fear of getting arrested. They go to private doctors for treatment, said a senior police officer in Ahmedabad. Injury in the riot violence is a sure evidence of a person’s presence in the mob, he added.

Policemen go the government or municipality-run hospitals for treatment even if the injury is superficial. 

Policemen often do not use the protective shields meant for combat with rioters. They become easy targets of the rioters, stones and other projectiles hitting them thrown from terraces. 

In the Shahpur incident where two policemen were injured in the stone-pelting, one of them was a cop of traffic police on duty near the Dilli Darwaja. The cops who rush to control exigencies like riots are often ill-equipped to control such situations.

A police official said that a police man reacts to a riot either by not doing anything or countering it. Obviously, if they counter violence, they may too be get hurt. Bamboo shields as well as fibre made ones have been provided to city police stations. But even bamboo shields do not work if stones are pelted from terraces in congested lanes, he added. Police sources said that the police stations do not have adequate shields and the police have to use baton and helmet in riot situations.

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