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Low morale hits Gujarat police

From Suhasini Haidar
CNN Correspondent

AHMEDABAD, India (CNN) -- In the western state of Gujarat the police's image has taken a beating.

They have been accused of turning a blind eye while rioters burnt, looted and killed, yet senior officials have denied the charge, saying their men were outnumbered and overwhelmed.

They also say these allegations are just contributing to an already low morale.

The heat doesn't help -- its 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) at midday and it is burning hot.

Police constable Veenubhai has to enforce the curfew in this part of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

It involves standing in the heat for eight or nine hours, and dealing with crowds that can quickly turn into threatening mobs.

"They're even attacking men in uniform, that is why we're so tense," Veenubhai told CNN.

The police have been living with that tension for more than 60 days now ever since the outbreak of Hindu-Muslim violence that has left more than 900 people dead in the state of Gujarat.

As bad as the days are, the nights are even worse.

Police are trying to keep the peace, but residents, who accuse them of being partisan, have attacked the security forces with stones.

In Ahmedabad alone five policemen have been killed, scores injured.

Jugal Kishore, a sub-inspector, was one of the policemen caught up in the violence.

"People started to throw stones at our post, then they threw a homemade bomb at me," Kishore told CNN.

His leg was broken when he fell, but he says be will return to work as soon as he gets back on his feet.

Besides the obvious physical danger, riot control work also takes its toll on their minds.

A police physician told CNN that he has had 150 new patients in the last two months and that some can't sleep, others have lost interest in life, they are depressed.

Above all they have very low self-esteem, as the fear of further violence continues to over shadow them.




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