I RECENTLY visited the office of a senior superintendent of police (SSP). I was among a delegation of our village notables to share an incident where a feudal had lord set a labourer’s home on fire. I will not comment on the matter as it is sub judice.
The way the SSP dealt with the visitors reflected the poor grooming of the officer in terms of courtesy towards the public. When one of our senior delegates started explaining the matter politely, the SSP interrupted him saying: “babay apni tangain seedhi kar kay bethe, ye SSP ka office hay.”
The old teacher was sitting cross-legged. He used word babay (old man) for a white-bearded retired teacher. This was belittling attitude, if not derogatory.
Moreover, the office staff was instructing people to keep mobile phones off and not to raise the voice in ‘sahab’s’ office. I felt hurt and surprised at such an appalling attitude. Apart from personal agony and grief, I being an assistant professor, remained in a state of shock thinking how our institutes train their officers.
I personally believe that a public office holder should not feel offended by the way a person is seated in his office. Such protocol and decorum apply only to staff members at official meetings.
We were at the SSP’s office for getting redressed our grievance against a feudal lord and the police who were not ready to lodge an FIR. But what can one expect when the person who was supposed to act against the culprit — the SPP in this case — was himself suffering from a feudal mindset.
While we were educated lot with our grievance, I wonder how such officers would have been dealing with the common and uneducated people at their offices.
This mindset has its roots in colonialism, which is worrisome. We cannot create a psychologically safe environment at public offices with such colonial mindset.
All public servants should be ordered to treat all people in a civilised and respectful manner and also avoid profiling people on the basis of their class, attire, language and posture.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020