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Acting blind

Recent accusations levelled at the Bengal Government by its Governor seem to be based on wilful ignorance in regards to the state of institutional economy in India

Acting blind
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The accusation by West Bengal's Governor that the TMC Government has converted the state into a police state is only amusing, since he, like many others, is acting blind about the unabashed disrespect of his patron party for the autonomy of democratic institutions across the country.

Autonomy along with accountability engenders professionalism. Amidst the recent racial violence, the Houston police chief asked President Trump to shut his mouth if he had no constructive alternatives to offer. However, even an iota of such autonomy is non-existent in India, despite the recommendations of police commissions and orders of the Supreme Court. Every political party perpetuates the colonial culture of police subservience to the rulers and their vested interests of religion, caste and corruption. And, to make matters worse, not only the colonial law of criminal conspiracy, that was enacted by the British to subjugate our freedom movement, is continued, but new draconian laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, in the guise of fighting extremism, has also been brought in. Abuse of police machinery and such laws has become so common in the present regime that they are being liberally employed even against the protests in Hathras episode to cover up its misdeeds.

The delay in registering the FIR, the casual medical treatment of the Dalit girl with multiple injuries, and the way her last rites were conducted in tearing haste in the middle of the night without the approval and presence of close relatives, reveal the extent of the conspiracy of the police and the administration to protect the accused from the upper caste of the CM. Further, since the new stringent law may lead to the death penalty, every effort is being made not to include gang-rape in the FIR despite the victim's repeated assertion about it, although this law mandates taking cognisance of the version of the victim. Umbrage is being taken under the report of the forensic test, conducted after a delay of 12 days, that negates the presence of semen, although it is common knowledge that it would not be present after 96 hours. Had their intentions been sincere, her body would have been preserved for examination by a team of experts.

Similar is the case of Kuldeep Sengar, MLA of Unnao, who, along with his gang, not only raped a minor girl, and killed her father in police premises, but also engineered a car-truck collision which killed two of her aunts and seriously injured her and her advocate. Recently, the father of a minor rape-survivor was shot dead by the accused, moving at large without arrest even after a year, after receiving threats from him to withdraw the complaint.

Criminals are emboldened. In Rampur, a man was beaten and tied to a tree before his wife was raped in front of him by a group of men. Although UP tops the list of states for crimes against women and children, nothing tangible has been done. The UP Government could have at least emulated AP that put in place the Disha Act and Disha App that are providing great relief to women in terms of prevention by prompt action, and time-bound investigations and trials.

This is a state in which people are charged with sedition at the drop of a hat. The handling of CAA-protestors, killing a score of them, the name-and-shame exercise in displaying photos in posters, the illegal detention of Dr Kafeel Khan under NSA, etc., only speaks of the mindset of the administration. It is also a state in which journalists can be killed or criminal cases of sedition foisted on them for truthful reporting.

In the country, democracy is being decimated by every means — be it in political defections to overthrow elected governments, in arresting those working for the welfare of tribal people, or in stamping out dissent of any kind.

Without taking action against the bigots who were real trouble-makers in Bhima-Koregaon violence, intellectuals and activists were arrested by the Government in Maharashtra. When the government changed, and the case was being reviewed, quickly NIA seized the matter, and continued making arrests, the latest being that of 83-year-old tribal-activist from Jharkhand, Father Stan Swamy, under UAPA. The prime reason is they are impediments to this regime for destroying forests at the cost of environment and livelihood of tribals. Similar modus operandi is adopted in Delhi as well.

After the drubbing of the ruling party in the Delhi election, with Kapil Mishra's hate-speech and his supporters pelting stones, there were full-scale communal riots in NE Delhi. Bricks were unloaded from trucks with shouts of "Jai Shri Ram", etc., and the hooligans and bigots created havoc for three days, injuring and killing people, torching properties, especially targeting Muslims. Police, that prevaricate in acting against the culprits, Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, and others, did not act even on the orders of Justice Muralidhar for registering FIRs against them in 24 hours. Instead, the Central Government transferred the High Court judge overnight to enable the police to simply obey their diktats.

Earlier too, the photo of a burning bus was circulated in the media to malign the students of Jamia protesting against CAA, whereas videos in circulation showed uniformed personnel pouring petrol and scorching vehicles. Then, in JNU, scores of fully-armed masked men ran riot on the campus, beating students and teachers, pulling out young women from their hostel rooms, all in police presence, and even electric supply was cut off. Delhi police is reluctant to act against the real culprits from ABVP, etc., for obvious reasons. On the other hand, they quietly used the COVID times to fix the CAA protesters of Shaheen Bagh through Delhi riots cases.

A number of them, including Umar Khalid, the former JNU student leader, were arrested under UAPA, sedition, criminal conspiracy, etc. And of late, even leaders like Sitaram Yechury, Yogendra Yadav, who were guiding the peaceful protests, were named as co-conspirators in the supplementary charge sheets without any corroborative evidence.

Autonomous American police would never have abused the law to this extent to suppress Fundamental Rights. It prompted several former police officers, including Juleo Rebeiro, to voice their concern and reprimand the acting chief of Delhi Police.

Police are aided by the ruling party's IT Cell, which acts as the 'thought police' of George Orwell, and provides doctored videos to the media and government agencies, and also uses thousands of fake Twitter accounts to promote government's interests while maligning opposition and dissenters. Even as Subrahmaniam Swamy has demanded the removal of its head, Amit Malaviya, the Maharashtra Government has initiated legal action. Furthermore, notorious phone-hacking Pegasus software is another tool being extensively used to spy on citizens.

Every institution has fallen in line for fear of the coercive methods or inducements offered. The Judiciary is no exception.

The special public prosecutor, Rohini Salian, publicly spoke about the pressure exerted on her to go easy on the accused in Malegaon case. Such judicial orders are numerous.

And now, we have the judgement in the Babri-masjid demolition case. Justice MS Libranhas categorically stated that as Chairman of the Enquiry Commission he was convinced about the conspiracy and culpability of the accused, and even the SC in its judgement in Ayodhya civil dispute said that the criminality evident was very grave. Yet, everyone is acquitted.

'Time' magazine, while placing the PM in the list of 100 influential people, castigated him for communalism, intolerance to dissent, and pushing a vibrant democracy deeper into shadow.

Yet, while people like WB Governor are acting blind, RSS Chief even says Indian Muslims are the happiest in the world! Worth pondering.

The writer is a retired IPS officer and a former Member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. Views expressed are personal

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