Abuse of power always targets the weakest: Upneet Lalli on the need for police training

15 January 2021
Courtesy Upneet Lalli
Courtesy Upneet Lalli

Upneet Lalli is the deputy director of the Institute of Correctional Administration in Chandigarh, a central government institution which imparts training to police officers and prison officers. A psychologist and legal expert by training, Lalli is the author of the book Human Rights in Indian Prisons, among other works.

As Indian politics places itself on the right of the ideological spectrum, some individuals who were members of right-wing organisations, have moved towards the Left—or at least, away from the Right. Yet, others, who hail from a notably right-wing milieu, never embraced it and have become the political right’s fiercest critics. Abhimanyu Chandra, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, seeks to explore these transitions in a series of interviews, titled Converse Lens, published by The Caravan. The initial set of interviews focused on individuals who turned critical of the Right despite previous associations. In the latter part of this series, Chandra interviews experts who comment on when, why, and how some people leave right-wing settings, even as so many others do not.

For the final interview of this series, Chandra spoke to Lalli about training programmes for police officers as well as prison officials—in the context of evidence of anti-minority attitudes prevalent in sections of the police forces. For instance, there is considerable evidence that the police not only attempted to cover up the anti-Muslim violence in north-eastern Delhi in late February 2020, but actively took part in it. The police’s conduct in north-eastern Delhi is part of a larger trend of custodial violence and brutality that often targets marginalised and minority communities. Speaking in a personal capacity, Lalli emphasised that “Attitudes don’t change overnight. They do require the constant hammering and drilling and constant reinforcement.”

Abhimanyu Chandra: Could you briefly tell us about the Institute of Correctional Administration in Chandigarh—what does it do, and your role in it?
Upneet Lalli: The institute was set up by the government of India, specifically for the training of police officers and prison staff. It primarily caters to the training needs of the northern states, and is funded by the ministry of home affairs. We conduct training, and also some research, on issues of criminal justice and prison related issues, mainly. We train police staff based on their needs and based on requests from their department.

My role is primarily academic, in terms of delivering training programmes, organising them and doing research. I have also been assigned administrative duties, so I look after the institute.

Abhimanyu Chandra is a PhD student in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Keywords: Converse Lens police brutality Delhi Violence Islamophobia
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