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Between the line

Police obey political masters, not law
February 25 , 2009


A 15-YEAR-OLD girl committed suicide in Karnataka after being humiliated by the Bajrang Dal, the tirshul side of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), for having talked to a Muslim boy, riding with her in the same bus. The police refused to register a case against the Bajrang Dal men on the ground that if it were to do so, there would be communal riots.

This only shows how the police have come to be politicized in the state within a span of few months of the BJP rule. Some say that the state is rapidly becoming another Gujarat and Karnataka Chief Minister Yediyurappa is following the footsteps of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The allegation has a ring of truth because before the advent of the BJP government, the different communities in Karnataka were living peacefully, without the communal elements polluting the atmosphere.

Parochialism has become an order which the BJP ruled states are following with a vengeance. The party has the belief that it can get a majority in the coming parliamentary election by dividing the society on the basis of religion. The BJP is convinced that it will not get the vote of Muslims who constitute 12 to 15 per cent of the electorate. The party wants to wean away the Hindu voters in the name of Hindutva.

However, the Karnataka police attitude indicates something more heinous. It is a reflection of what the force has reduced itself to: acting in the manner the ruling party expects it to do. The police job is to maintain law and order. It should register a case against the culprit without making distinction on the basis of religion, caste or gender. But the Karnataka incident has brought before the public a new face of police—a force which keeps the “interest” or “philosophy” of its political bosses in mind before fulfilling the demands of law and order.

Over the years, such people have reached points of authority not because of merit but because of their proximity to political masters. This is not confined to Karnataka but has spread throughout India. The police make little effort to protect the rule of law. But there is an extra effort to ensure that the roughnecks in the ruling party are not touched, much less annoyed.

Things began slipping when Sardar Patel was the Home Minister. Ravages of partition contaminated the police. Still at that time a thana worked independently and there were no instances of interference from above to regulate it. The watershed was, however, the emergency (1975-77) when even blank warrants of arrest were issued for the police to take action. The force became a willing tool for tyranny. There was hardly an officer who registered opposition to the rule sans law.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, flouted all norms and suspended even the fundamental rights. She converted police into a brute force to detain people without trial, to raid houses of critics or to demolish colonies which were considered hostile. The Shah Commission which went into the excesses during emergency named some officers. None was punished because Mrs Gandhi returned to power before any action could be taken. Election Commissioner Navin Chawla is one of them.

Unfortunately, the National Police Commission appointed when Indira Gandhi was in the wilderness gave its recommendation on how to make the force autonomous. She did not even look at the report. She rewarded the officers who had obeyed her wrong orders. The successive governments have done little to implement the Police Commission’s recommendations. Even the Supreme Court’s directive to that effect has not been carried out. It is a pity that the states would rather have their own rule than law and order.

The 15-year-old girl who was harassed is not an isolated incident. What poses danger to the country is that the RSS-blessed organizations like Ram Sene and Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena are trying to ape the Taliban. They have intimidated girls at Pune, Kanpur and Mangalore for wearing jeans or frequenting restaurants with boys. It is time that India wakes up and takes note of what has happened in Pakistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari has admitted that the governments in Pakistan failed to take action against the Taliban in time. The result was that they were trying to take over Pakistan. New Delhi should directly intervene if a state, in charge of law and order, did not take action against those who were trying to hijack an open, democratic society.

Meanwhile, the BJP has retrieved the Ram temple from the debris of the demolished Babri masjid. The party did not touch the issue in the last 10 years because it found no response to the few attempts it made to stir up the temple controversy. All of a sudden, the party’s National Executive meeting early this month at Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS, brought to the fore not only the building of Ram temple on the site of demolished Babri Masjid but also revived the battle cry of Hindutva.

Why has the BJP done so only two months before the Parliamentary elections is not difficult to guess? The party has come to believe that the Hindutva has begun to sell after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. The RSS and its parivar are said to have assessed public opinion and concluded that the Mumbai carnage and “Pakistan’s attitude” have set into motion an anti-Muslim feeling which can be harnessed. The party’s reaction to Islamabad’s positive response has been that it is ‘too little and too late’. It wants to keep the cauldron of antagonism boiling for its own purpose.

But this has not been to the liking of the BJP’s allies. The Janata Dal (United), one of the allies, has distanced itself from the BJP. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that he was opposed to the building of Ram temple. The Akalis have said many a time that they do not accept the Hindutva thesis. The ruling Biju Janata Dal in Orissa too has regretted the revival of temple-masjid controversy.

The BJP is the Hindus’ Jammat-e-Islami which wears religion on its sleeve. While the Jammat has never done well in Pakistan and has been routed in Bangladesh in recent elections, the BJP has been gaining ground since the emergency. At that time, it got credibility because it offered the maximum number of arrests. No doubt, it is said that it is not the BJP which wins at polls, but it is the Congress that loses. Yet the fact remains that the BJP is in power in six states and it shares governments in three more states.

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