Unrest in the Indian police force has spread from the Punjab to states throughout the nation, as groups of policemen risk imprisonment and dismissal to protest low pay, poor conditions, and persistent "humiliation" at the hands of politicans.
The latest demonstrations took place in the city of Indore, in Madhya Pradesh state, where about a thousand constables, many of them in uniform, ignored pleas from senior officers and staged a five-hour procession and rally. The constables, or patrolmen, submitted a 25-point charter of demands and warned that the authorities had seven days in which to agree to them before risking "direct action."
Some state government - particularly in the Punjab, where the unrest began earlier this month - say the agitation is now under control. Several hundred police have been arrested and about 1,000 are expected to be summarily dismissed.
However, local press reports say that many district police stations are now unmanned and it seems clear that the unrest is spreading.
Even in Punjab, where the state Cabinet capitulated quickly and raised policemen's pay to a level higher than had been recommended by the pay commission, the situation remains unsettled, and repercussions of the increase are already being felt elsewhere.
The new Punjab pay scale of $63 a month for a constable is said to be much higher than poorer states can afford. It is considerably more than a soldier is paid.
This is expected to encourage agitation for parity elsewhere. Haryana state has increased its pay scales, but not to the level of the Punjab.
Policemen are also demanding the right to form unions. Leaders of disgruntled Punjab police are officially admitted to have gone underground to avoid arrest.
Pay is only one of the main grievances. Political interference is considered to be as important and its effects are widely recognized. A member of the National Police Commission, K. F. Rustamji, has supported complaints of political harassment.
"The reaction of policement - the reaction that enough is enough, that they will not put up with humiliation after humiliation - is to be welcomed," he said. "At last we hav ethe glimmer of a man who will stand up for his self-respect."
Political humiliation comes in many guises, policemen say. In some cases, local party bosses order constables to act as chauffeurs. One of the direct causes of the unrest was an incident last month in which a policeman was reportedly beaten up by the son of a Punjabi politician.
The form of police agitation is changing. Straightforward demonstrations are becoming less popular. In Punjab, small groups of police are now going out courting arrest.
It a few areas, senior officers are trying to avoid being caught up in the unrest by keeping their men uselessly busy. At Rohtak, about 80 miles from here, three inspection parades a day are being held, and physical training sessions have suddenly been increased.
It is difficult to estimate the proportion of the Indian police force involved in the unrest. Officially, only a small percentage is said to have stopped work to take part in demonstrations.
The reaction of many ordinary Indians to the protests, particularly in the Punjab, generally has been unsympathetic. Most feel badly served by the force, and are surprised that policemen should be complaining about low wages, as they are widely considered to compensate by taking bribes.
Many bus shelters in the Punjab have this slogan painted on them: "The price of the Punjab police is a bottle of liquor."