Too many Chulbul Pandeys

Chulbul Pandey rides again. Already a national hero in Abhinav Kashyap's Dabangg, he is brash, violent and openly corrupt, but audiences are lining up to see him in action in the sequel, Dabangg 2.

For Chulbul, the uniform is the ticket to unbridled power. The law is remote from his actions and the courts are redundant. Without an iota of doubt, he just knows who the real bad guys are and deals with them as judge and jury in an instant. His superiors are puppets whom he disregards.

Unencumbered by the trappings of a real-life uniform, the powerful magic of Salman Khan warps all conceptions of right and wrong, condoning the manipulation of power and glorifying rotten policing through one man's vigilantism. He is everyone's dream policeman precisely because he is a fantasy which, like all fantasies, we create and control. In real life, lawless and brutal Chulbul is the monster we face when we encounter a police force that is not held accountable, with police who can neither prevent crime nor solve it. So worried is the government of Uttar Pradesh that the Chulbul brand may catch on, its recent circular exhorts the constabulary to improve their behaviour while dealing with the public and not be high-handed: "Concerned officers at a police station need to play by the book, registering each case and then addressing the grievances within a specific time".

Sadly, the kind of policing that Chulbul parodies has long existed in real life. As early as 1903, the brutality and corruption in policing were noted with concern. Post emergency, in 1979, the National Police Commission charted the directions of change in eight voluminous reports. In 2005, the Sorabjee committee designed legislation that could make it a practical reality. In 2006, the Supreme Court gave a series of seven directions that had to be evidenced by institutional changes. But seven years later, much like Chulbul, neither the the police nor the politicians are listening.

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