Crime, Gender, and Sexuality in Criminal Prosecutions

By Louis A. Knafla | Go to book overview

Consolidation of the Raj: Notes from a Police Station in British India, 1865–1928

Arvind Verma

The Raj syndrome has been a popular theme for a long period of time and appears to show no decline of interest. Research in the multifaceted aspect of the British rule over India is in fact attracting more and more researchers, and the voluminous output is building an impressive account of that era. 1 It was a period when the sun supposedly never set upon Britannia and India formed the jewel in the crown. However, it was a bruised jewel, since the Raj was established and sustained upon a brutal criminal justice system. The notorious “Kala Pani” (literally, “black water”) prison at the Andaman island, the public floggings and humiliations, the labeling of more than 13 million people as “criminal tribes,” and the terror unleashed upon the citizens are also memories that have become part of the Indian psyche. In this oppressive state, the creation and administration of the police system was an important factor that has not been as deeply examined. The manner in which a small number of British officers built the organization that enabled the hegemony of the Raj is as fascinating a saga to any student of the British Empire as anything else. The shaping of the police as an instrument of the Raj, one where native police officers without hesitation followed orders and baton-charged Gandhi’s peaceful followers or shot to death young boys raising Indian flags, is a subject that requires much more research to be done.

The Indian police organization was established formally in 1861, and the subsequent years saw the gradual strengthening of this system through various administrative decrees and control mechanisms. These controls were largely exercised through a close supervision system in which the officers kept a tight administrative leash upon the subordinate police not only through rules and regulations but also through physical inspection of the personnel and offices and a plethora of records. In this control system, the inspection of the police station was an important regulatory mechanism

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