COLONIAL STATE, REPRESSIVE STATE AND CIVIL SOCIETY 91
Arnold has attempted a serious study of police power and colonial rule in the Madras Presidency during 1859-1947.
At the outset one must thank David Arnold for providing us with a well-documented and analytical work on the colonial origins of the Indian police. He defines the role of the police within the colonial system and examines the nature and the consequences of the interaction between the police and the people. Arnold's book is also an initiation into an area of our colonial past which so far has been neglected by the historians.
Locating himself within the terms of the broader debate over the nature and impact of colonial rule, Arnold analyses the specific character and importance of the police, for the 'police also serve as a metaphor for the colonial regime as a whole.' Arnold argues that in colonial India police power was often used to circumvent or supplement the legal process. As a result, the colonial police often usurped the 'role of judge, jailor and executioner.' He shows at a greater length how the growing popular opposition to colonial rule made the colonial rulers realize the need for prompt retribution and collective punishment. 'The more resolutely colonial control was challenged,' argued Arnold, 'the greater the willingness of the colonial authorities to authorise police action that went beyond both the letter and the spirit of the lawmakers and magistrates. Much of the impact of the police lay in their unlicensed petty tyranny, their corruption and brutality' (p. 3). The other important aspect of the colonial police, was its defence of the British interests as well as the interests of the Indian propertied classes. This trend, argues Arnold, continued uninterrupted in the post-independence era. Naturally the colonial police was passed largely unchanged into Indian hands after 1947 and has become a 'mainstay of post-colonial state power.' This fairly sums up Arnold's thesis on the Madras constabulary in colonial India.
There are however certain contradictions in and problems with Arnold's arguments. In chapter one, 'Origins and Structure', he shows how colonialism, from the businessman's viewpoint, established 'a framework of control, a pattern of order otherwise absent from non-European and uncolonized parts of the world. The colonial state had to be something more than an agency for the collection of land revenue: it was required to provide a general environment of 'law and order' (pp. 12-13, emphasis added). By the 1850s, Munro's ryotwari system had actually increased the need for the State to assume direct responsibility for rural policing (p. 16). In creating the new police there 'had been. a significant departure from pre-colonial institutions and practice and in favour of a Western model of organization' (p. 35, emphasis added). Yet the colonial system of police has became famous for its petty tyranny, corruption and brutality. In locating the reasons for these drawbacks, Arnold writes that: 'Here perhaps pre-colonial traditions ran strong; but the British, by the very nature of the police