Nikita Sonavane


Police violence is cast as a graphic, brutal spectacle of power on the bodies of the poor. This popular understanding is only the most visible form of routinised arbitrary violence perpetrated by the police. In this article, we study the scope and forms of police discretion in ordinary policing tasks informed by Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 to argue that the police frame criminality not through evidence-gathering but through the power of language and distorted narratives that are passed off as discoverable truths derived from the institution of caste. Through a study focused on alcohol policing under the Madhya Pradesh Excise Act, 1915, this article seeks to underscore that police discretion is constructed by caste, resulting in the criminalisation of oppressed caste communities.