May Major Sinha be our George Floyd. May his supreme sacrifice pave the ground for long due police reforms
Sometimes a victim of injustice emerges as an extraordinary symbol of the tyranny of power to mobilise social forces to shake the monstrous system by uniting people against it. George Floyd and Major Sinha are two such victims of such injustice--extrajudicial killing--in the time of pandemic.
The killing of Floyd, a black American man by the police feeling empowered by supremacy of race and in utter disregard of human dignity and right to life of blacks and the subsequent widespread protest over it prompted the US government to take action at an urgent pace to deliver on the need of the hour: police reforms.
Sweeping reforms are aimed at reining in the abuse of police powers and holding them accountable for use of excessive force. The main objective of the reforms is to ensure people's liberty and dignity.
The reforms are expected to bring qualitative changes in policing. This kind of rapid response was rare previously. Thus, the tragic murder of Floyd in May by a white police officer expedited the reforms due for a long time.
Two months down the line, 13 thousand km away, the extrajudicial killing of Major Sinha allegedly by police in Bangladesh and subsequent public outcry and protest has raised hope for a change in policing.
Police officials engaged in the unlawful killing were suspended and put behind bars. A high powered inquiry committee was formed. The elite force, Rab is investigating the case. Such response has been unprecedented in recent years.
Such administrative measures were not taken in any of the incidents of 4,000 extrajudicial killings in the last one and half a decade in the country.
So the tragic death of Major Sinha seems to have moved the mountains.
The former armed forces officers' welfare association, RAOWA, deserves kudos for raising a strong voice against the killing of the former major. The measures it has taken demonstrates its serious determination to ensure a fair trial in the case.
An expert panel formed by the RAOWA will voluntarily monitor every stage of the investigation and trial in the case. The reason for this move is significant as its chief Lieutenant General (retd) Md Mainul Islam explained: "Law has many loopholes. Anyone can get away with crime using them; we saw this before."
In an interview with this paper, the other important point General Mainul has raised is police reforms. The expert committee to be composed of retired judges and police officers and practicing lawyers of the Supreme Court will make some observations and recommendations for reforms in the police force.
Reforming the police has remained a decades old issue. Some sporadic measures have been taken in this regard, but those could not yield any tangible results.
The problem has spread its root deeply. Abuse of the police force by the successive governments over the years for gaining their narrow political mileage has eroded professionalism in the force. In addition, lack of accountability for abuse of powers has resulted in the growth of a culture of impunity. Major Sinha has become a victim to this monster.
His death has however rung the bell afresh for police reforms which is the need of the hour.
The reforms that are taking place in the US may be taken into consideration to draft proposals for reforms in our police force to bring an end to violent and murderous policing.
After weeks of nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at guiding police reforms.
His government would create federal incentives through the Justice Department for local police departments that seek "independent credentialing" to certify that law enforcement is meeting higher standards for the use of force and de-escalation training.
Trump specifically noted that those standards would include banning the use of chokeholds — an especially controversial tactic that has led to the high-profile deaths of multiple African-American men — "except if an officer's life is at risk."
Since Floyd's death, there have been about 450 pieces of policing reform proposals introduced in 31 states, according to a count by the National Conference on State Legislatures.
Many states had finished their normal legislative session at the time of Floyd's death and are planning to address police accountability next year. But some states are having special sessions this year and others moved quickly to pass bills during the normal legislative calendar, according to a recent CNBC report.
Take California as an example of its upcoming reforms. California lawmakers are pushing to enact nearly a dozen policing reform laws.
Police officers' careers would end if they are found to have used excessive force resulting in serious injury or death or failed to stop the overuse of force by another officer, according to a proposal. It also says officers who do not intercede could be criminally charged as accessories to any crimes committed by those who use excessive force.
Another proposal will allow even criminal suspects and their survivors to apply for victims' compensation if they were injured or killed by police use of excessive force.
George Floyd himself is now beyond any help. But his death and subsequent reforms are expected to contribute to ensuring liberty and dignity of others particularly of American black people who have long been victims of discriminatory policing.
May Major Sinha be our George Floyd. May his supreme sacrifice pave the ground for long due police reforms to enforce an efficient and transparent policing that would rein in the uncontrolled extrajudicial killings.
Sinha's death offers extraordinary moments to bring changes. If it is not properly used, this will be fresh injustice to departed souls of Sinha and of other victims of extrajudicial killings.