In the heart of Bihar - a.k.a. the heart of darkness - there is a town called Bhagalpur. Well known to me since childhood. This is where the police had poured acid into the eyes of some undertrials in the early eighties. One of my earliest memories in reading the papers as a boy.
Earlier this week a woman in Bhagalpur had her gold chain snatched from her.
She gave a cry and two passers-by ran after the thief. They caught him. The mob gathered. He was tied hand and foot and beaten by the crowd.
The police came.
They joined in the beating.
And took the man and tied him by a chain to their motor-cycle. And dragged him. Till the chain broke.
A video camera captured it all. And showed it on national TV. Even the heart of darkness has some eyes open.
But, Oh! the sorrow to know that these are our guardians of justice.
We all know that our police force is riddled with corruption and some of the harshest men around.
The Indian Express quoted a senior police officer's response to the terrible act: "The policeman involved should be treated like a criminal"
Exactly. And does that mean he should also be tied up and dragged? How do we treat criminals?
Lord have mercy upon us.
I have been to Bhagalpur - it is in the absolute corner of Bihar - just north of the tribal district where our dear friends Dr. Isaac and Vijila David are doing their amazing medical work among the Mal-paharia tribals (a.k.a. 'Maltos'). Its a jungle out there. Literally. But also a place where some of the most lovely people on earth live.
Despite the depth of darkness there is always hope. The man has survived - so far at least - though he was very severely wounded.
Closer to us here in Thane - We have people who are called to work in prisons. Today we met Vivek Kamble who said that he has watched most of his generation of young men literally waste away. And he wants to do something about it - so when his church (GMI - still mainly known as 'Bombay Baptist') started a prison ministry he jumped to it. Today he and his colleague Ravindra Raj visit people in Thane, Kalyan and Mumbai jails - and meet people with HIV there as well.
It is also no accident that we have been dealing with a number of members of the police force as HIV patients through Jeevan Sahara. We see the disheartening effects of brutality, alcoholism, infidelity at close quarters. In the police quarters - where the families live. But we also see the opportunities for change. Real change. Inside and also outside.
Pray for our police. Pray for the man who was so brutally beaten. Pray for the many undertrials rotting away in lock-ups. Pray for convicted men and their families. Pray for the local beat patrol man. Pray for the station officer who writes the all-important First Information Report (FIR) in the official register. Pray for those who investigate complaints. Pray for the families of those policement who have passed away from AIDS. Pray.