Failure of a nation

Outbreak of the Delhi riots highlighted the incompetency of various agencies that are meant to safeguard the lives and property of citizens

The latent fissures between communities explode and lead to loss of life when the attendant institutions meant for ensuring harmony malfunction. Failure of the police in the north-east district of Delhi in containing the riot is a glaring case in point. It is blatant since police here is under the central government which has a huge contingent of para-military forces as well as the Indian army under its command. It is obvious because the central government controls all the ace investigative and spying agencies the country has. It is blatant because despite its entire network to safeguard the nation from such unfortunate incidences, a supposedly alert and concerned administration let the situation take such an ugly turn and made the country a spectacle before the global community at a time when the most powerful nation's President was on a visit to the national capital. Like it or not, the incidence is a big example of the failure of the administration in the nation's capital.

Once the fire is doused, it is time to examine what went wrong and then to take steps so that the same does not recur. Riots are not a very rare occurrence in India. There are many such events in many corners of the nation since the availability of recorded history. The question is what have we learnt from these and how did we adopt curative actions to prevent these. And it is reasonable to assume that implementation of such lessons and steps will begin at least in the nation's capital. This expectation of a common man was not what the central government also expected as we could gather from the riots in north-east of the national capital.

Forget the task of prevention, even at the stage of the investigation, the weaknesses of the city police are conspicuous. First, we had India's NSA (National security advisor) on the streets assuaging the nerves of the riot-affected and leading the police force. The incident had taken the seriousness of impacting national security, thanks to the incompetence of the city administration.

Second, take a look at the body count. The police have little or no information about the places where bodies could be dumped. This merely shows the lack of local intelligence with the law enforcers.

Third and a striking failure was the positions of the police force as seen from the riot clips which came on the social media. A prominent TV anchor who is reasonably supportive of the minority cause had to flee when he attempted to video-graph the rampaging crowds in the riot-affected area. He was seen taking shelter behind the other section of the crowd despite police's presence.

Clearly, it gives the impression that the police had failed and had attempted to quell the riot by containing only one section of the rioting mob. This shows a section of the rioters has aversion to the presence of the police force. And they have little friendship with any civil society representative, even with a prominent journalist and a news channel known for sympathising their causes. The huge hiatus between the so-called civil society and the mobs on this side seems to be unbreachable without a focused plan.

Fourth and a serious concern for us, the ordinary citizens, is that despite a clear idea on how the tension would eventually payout, especially due to the visit of the US president, the administration did not attempt to nip it in the bud but also allowed the same to flare up when certain local leader came to the fore with his ultimatum. Instead of penetrating the camps of both the CAA supporters and opponents, the law enforcers chose to remain in the safety of the former. But we need police to tread where ordinary individuals don't dare. This was utter incompetence of the police force.

Another critical omission can be seen from the failure of the law enforcers to bring the local municipal councillor on the peace negotiation table. Any mob is led by certain leaders. Now it transpires that the Aam Admi Party leader (now suspended) was the ring leader in leading a section of the mob. It was his house that served as a fort of sorts to help a section of the mob. Either the police did not care to check his activity or they did not know. Either way, this does not speak well for the law enforcing agency and its controlling political authority.

Now, look at the political masters whose responsibility it is to maintain social harmony and protect civilians. When ordinary individuals knew and social media was abuzz with the situation fast moving out of control, neither the Chief Minister nor the Home Minister of the country was seen taking a prominent position on the negotiating table. What could have happened if these two leaders had called a joint meeting with the prominent local leaders who led the respective mobs eventually on Sunday itself before the riot broke out? Sometimes the law enforcers on the ground need the political masters to lead them in doing the right thing. Wouldn't such an effort have helped the police to enter the lanes where arsenals were being accumulated? From the gunshot deaths, it is clear that the area had enough preparedness to inflict injuries to each other. There was a lack of political will both on the part of the city government and the national government to contain the riot.

What will happen now that the nation has been shamed – will there be corrective measures? Will there be a watertight crisis management framework? Unlikely, as we can see in the bickering that is going on in public. While the pretext of killing is religion, in reality, the reason for such a dastardly act is frustration arising out of a meaningless life. When a large section of a certain community is gullible, mostly uneducated and largely live on working along the thin line of legal and not-so-legal activities what should a nation, hoping to break into the top three list of the developed countries in the world do? What is your Maan ki Baat? Do the politicians, commentariat or media pundits care to address poverty and light up these lives, which are lost in such tragic incidents daily?

Views expressed are strictly personal

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