Police officers are facing racism and threats for doing their duty during pandemic‘You should go back to your Madhes’/‘You’ll pay for it’: Video clips of police officers facing abuse in the line of duty raise social media outrage.
On Tuesday, a video clip of some people arguing with traffic personnel was widely shared on social media.
The people not seen in the video are heard hurling racist comments at a traffic officer who had reportedly booked them for driving during the lockdown hours without licences.
In the video, which was originally posted some two weeks ago in a YouTube channel called Online News, one of the women booked for traffic rule violation is heard threatening to transfer the officer.
“We won’t let you stay here. We will transfer you anyhow,” the woman is heard saying.
A man is then heard asking the name of the officer who booked them. When the officer replies that his name is Madikanta Jha, the man retorts, “ Jha! You should go back to your Madhes. It will be easy for you to work there. Get involved in farming there.”
The people haranguing the traffic officer by remarking on his Madhesi origin prompted social media outrage.
“Even a police officer is a victim of racism in our country. The arrogance with which a lady (a victim of patriarchy in many other instances) is speaking omg,” wrote a twitter user sharing the video clip.
Another twitter user wrote: “Change mindset friends. This is a small representation of a huge problem.”
When the Post contacted Senior Superintendent of Police Janak Bhattarai, chief of Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, to inquire about the incident, he was unaware about it.
After looking at the clip, he pledged to find out what had happened.
SSP Bhattarai said it was not uncommon for traffic officers to encounter argumentative people in their line of work, particularly during the lockdown period.
“Many people are frustrated as they have been confined to their homes for a long time. Many people argue with on-duty officers when they are stopped,” he said. “Our personnel try their best to handle such situations calmly.”
SSP Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, also the spokesperson for Nepal Police, said that many officers face threats and abuse for doing their job from those in the position of influence and authority and people who know somebody who holds high government office.
One such instance of a person of political influence threatening an officer of the law was also caught in a video recently.
A twitter clip dated June 13 shows Mekhlal Shrestha, a provincial assembly member of Nepali Congress in Gandaki Province, threatening Shyam Thapa Magar, a police officer stationed at Baidam, Pokhara.
“You’ll pay for it,” Shrestha is seen telling Thapa Magar in the video that has been shared many times over on various social media platforms.
Unfazed by Shrestha’s threats, Thapa Magar then declares to the Congress’s legislator his full name and where he can be found.
The footage earned Shrestha widespread disrepute for abusing his political power to threaten a police officer performing his duty.
Meanwhile, Thapa Magar won accolades for standing up to his bully.
“What a heroic dialogue from Police man . This is the best way to counter such people! Mr. Thapamagar invites that so-called MP to the police station. Hats off Nepal Police,” wrote one twitter user, praising the officer.
Another wrote: “Someone may try to transfer Shyam Thapa Magar or demotivate him. Everyone should be on the alert.”
According to the data provided by Nepal Police, over a dozen people have been arrested from three districts for attacking and abusing on-duty officers.
The majority of these incidents happened while implementing the prohibitory orders imposed by the local authorities.
“Nepal Police personnel experience misbehaviour and abuse quite frequently. However, they have to deal with the situation in a calm and composed manner,” Kunwar told the Post.
But not all such incidents end amicably.
On June 8, as many as seven police personnel were attacked in Garuda Municipality-2 of Rautahat district. The incident took place when a police team reached a wedding venue following a complaint that the event exceeded the limit of people set by the authorities in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead of complying with the police, the wedding participants attacked the officers, some of whom had to be rushed to a local health facility for treatment.
Police arrested three people involved in the incident.
Hemanta Malla, former deputy inspector general, partly ascribes the incidents of clash and confrontation between civilians and police to the growing public frustration due to the lockdown.
“The protracted lockdown has caused restlessness and frustration to many people. They get out of their homes and when they are stopped by police, they get hostile,” he said.
As for those people who brandish their political connections to abuse police officers to get away with their wrongdoings, Malla says their mindset has been warped by the “aspect of our culture that puts power and influence above all things”.