Recently, it happened in Parbat district, then in Banke, and now in Banke again. The spirit of open protest has spread to the police forces, too, ringing alarm bells for the country’s law and order, as those who are supposed to enforce the law have taken the law into their own hands. About three weeks ago, policemen of non-officer rank in the Armed Police Force (APF) had taken their bosses hostage in Nepalgunj on the grounds of discrimination and exploitation and poor quality of food served to them in the mess. The APF headquarters and the Home Ministry handled the situation by rushing representatives to the trouble spot, holding talks, making a 22-point agreement, forming a committee to investigate the whole affair, and even expressing a word of praise for the rebels for pointing out ‘irregularities and weaknesses’. On Saturday, some 500 rank and file policemen in Nepalgunj took their seniors captive, and seized control of the offices and the compound of the battalion concerned.

The agitators even held a press conference, speaking of talking only to senior officials of the headquarters or the home minister. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said he has directed the IGP to initiate disciplinary action against the rebels and maintain the chain of command. This is a much stronger sta-nce, compared with the way the revolt had been dealt with last time. In whatever way the revolt may end, two things stand out — first, indiscipline has grown in the police forces to a point of serious concern; and second, the rank and file are extremely dissatisfied with their seniors and with their present job conditions. The dangerous consequences of disobedience in the police are obvious. So, it is necessary to take urgent and appropriate steps in preventing more incidents of lawlessness in the police forces.

Almost all the sections of society have learnt to agitate in an attempt to have their various demands met. Worryingly, the hitherto untouched police forces have also been infected. While disciplinary action will constitute an important part of exacting obedience from security personnel in the chain of command, but given the seemingly widespread discontent in the forces, it will be essential to take concrete measures to address the genuine grievances of the lowest-ranking police personnel. For this, a thorough and proper diagnosis of the causes of discontent needs to be made first. The rebel policemen may have concluded that in this relative state of ‘lawlessness’ across the country, it is high time they did something noticeable to be heard, or other reasons may have been dominant. Many do not see the effective presence of government in the country, and this impression has emboldened a number of groups to take the law into their hands. A lack of discipline or a rift within the security forces may encourage such groups further. Such a situation, until rectified, is likely to increase the general crime level. All political parties should unite in strengthening the rule of law. Unwarranted delay in the formation of a new government equipped with a fresh people’s mandate may also well have contributed to continuing law-and-order difficulties.