Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party show slogans during a protest demanding the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah following last week's clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in De

Conflict & Justice

Indian policewoman describes the hazards of being a whistleblower

As Indian officers are accused of standing by during violent persecution of Muslims, one policewoman describes the hardships of trying to change the force from the inside.

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Activists of the youth wing of India's main opposition Congress party show slogans during a protest demanding the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah following last week's clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in Delhi, March 2, 2020.

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Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters 

In late February, India saw its worst brutality against Muslims in years. Indian police officers have been accused of standing by while Muslims were beaten and killed. It’s difficult to get the police perspective on the violence — or what it’s like to be an Indian police officer, in general.

“Though I have my own views, I can’t criticize [the] government. I’m bound by rules.”

D. Roopa Moudgil, inspector-general of police railways

“Though I have my own views, I can’t criticize [the] government,” said D. Roopa Moudgil, inspector-general of police railways, in Bangalore. “I’m bound by rules.”

But Moudgil can talk about her own experiences, especially as one of the few women in the service. Women are estimated to make up 7% of India's 2.4-million-member police force. Moudgil’s career has spanned nearly two decades — even though she’s seen things she doesn’t like, including how cases of assault against women are handled. The government says a woman reports a rape in India on average every 15 minutes.

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“I still haven't come across any woman who said that she boldly went up to [the] police station, and her complaint was taken without any effort,” Moudgil said. “Such cases are very, very rare.”

But changing things from the inside is difficult. Moudgil found out just how difficult it is in 2017. She blew the whistle on a powerful politician who was serving time in prison for corruption. The lawmaker was receiving special privileges in jail — like access to cooking facilities and the use of five cells for her belongings. Moudgil reported it.

“And when I did that, a lot of eyebrows were raised from the people in the system, my colleagues,” she said. “With bated breath, they were waiting to see what will happen to me, what will happen next.”

Usually whistleblowers are punished, she said.

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“The knee-jerk reaction of governments is to do away with the whistleblower, just transfer that person or hush you up and they try to dig [into] your past and see what skeletons you have in your cupboard so that they can attack you,” Moudgil said.

That didn’t happen to Moudgil, she said, because she went to the media.

“It was national media news for a few days,” she said. “And probably that was the reason why I was not punished by the government.”

But Moudgil has been transferred 41 times.

“That is why not many people act because the wise ones feel you better be silent and just close your eyes and just do your job,” she said. “But still, life goes on. It’s fine.”

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