The CM is constantly traveling. Among the things you need to make sure is that every place he stays is provided with towels in his favorite color, a chemical orange.

Imagine what it could be like to be a high ranking police officer in northern India today. There you have it, a brilliant boy, gifted at the same time for sports and studies, a follower of languages, and perhaps also of sciences or economics. You do well in school and college, and then you pass the civil service exams. You want to contribute to society, you want a stable job and you also want an interesting life. So you opt for the Indian police service. You succeed and are sent for training. You graduate and earn a commission under a state framework. After donning your uniform, you salute Tiranga and take an oath on the Constitution of India. It is a proud day for you.

As your career progresses there are more ups than downs. You are a good, brave, intelligent officer, but some cases go wrong – maybe there are a few deaths in custody – not your fault directly, just that your subordinates have gotten a little too enthusiastic. However, these are dealt with; you manage it for your boys and your superiors manage it for you and all is well. You break a few good deals, handle a few sticky situations, and move up the promotion ranks. You are a smart guy and really have a team spirit; your colleagues have their needs; you too; so yes, you take your normal share of bribes but nothing too outrageous.

An honorable man

And you know which side your parantha is buttered on, so you also take orders from politicians in government; but again, nothing too extreme, almost always within limits, as much as possible with the law and general ethics in mind, not to mention preserving your self-esteem. And of course the strong possibility that the people you persecute today will be in power after the next election.

After long innings, you find yourself in the upper echelons of your state police. You didn’t come here naïve, but you also didn’t compromise too much – at least that’s what you think. Essentially your honor is intact and you are a good man – at least that’s what you think. The political wheel is spinning and there is a very different system in the country and then in your state. In many ways, it looks and acts the same as other governments, except these people push the legal and moral envelope to such an extent that it goes through the shredder.

The Prime Minister of your state proclaims that he gives the order to shoot criminals without trial. You quickly realize that this is not empty rhetoric – Shri CM-I have actually waits for you and your colleagues to produce a count of extrajudicial killings.

This is when the time for towels begins. You do what your boss tells you, knowing full well that it’s not effective in fighting crime. Even as executions increase, the level of crime in the state is also increasing, but some powerful sections are happy, not to mention boring legalities and ideas of justice. You suddenly understand that neither the CM nor anyone else in his party is afraid of ever being replaced by another government. You work day and night, but you also notice that the scope of your functions has widened.

The CM is constantly traveling. Among the things you need to make sure is that every place he stays is provided with towels in his favorite color, a chemical orange. Sometimes the napkins take on a different color and you almost lose your job.

Dreams in orange

Right now you are focusing on having your men slaughter innocent working-class Muslims as often as possible: coming out of namaaz, crossing a maidan after work or school … no signs of a problem but whatever, boom! You also coordinate with the gang leaders of the Friends of the Police who accompany your men as they regularly rampage through poor Muslim neighborhoods, destroying businesses, looting shops and breaking into homes, threatening and assaulting women.

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. If you don’t, several of your coworkers are waiting to pounce on your post. If you show a bit of reluctance you know this diet is psychopathically vindictive and you will be in pain. But at night, when you wake up from your nightmares, dreams aren’t about shooting little boys or forcing people to cremate their dead instead of burying them. Dreams involve folding towels and stacking them in neat piles in time for the CM’s arrival at a guesthouse. As you sit in bed, wiping your sweat off with an orange washcloth, you realize, once again, that this is where you came to be as the Senior Police Officer of the Republic of India .

The writer is a filmmaker and columnist



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