There is something strange in the way the Dalits had reacted on the 50th death anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Mumbai. The crowd that gathered at Chaityabhoomi near Shivaji Park in Central Mumbai numbered just about 45,000 Dalits, though the administration had expected and been making preparations for a 5 lakh-strong gathering, coming from the hinterland. Why did the Dalit movement look as if it was fizzling out after having vent its spleen a few days ago for several reasons, two being the desecration of Dr Ambedkar'sstatue in Kanpur and the Khairlanji incident where a whole Dalit family was murdered by the village in a land dispute.
If one goes by the past experience the crowds at Shivaji Park during the death anniversary of Dr Ambedkar are usually so large that the police and the civic authorities have a difficult time to control the traffic as well as the people spilling on to the roads and by-lanes. This year the situation was subdued as well as ?inert?, as a police officer at Shivaji Park put it. This raises a questions if the violence seen a few days earlier when the ?Dalits? stopped the Deccan Queen train and burnt seven of its bogies, had been orchestrated by some political party?
Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray even alluded to some political games being played which resulted in the massive violence and unruly scenes where mobs attacked housing colonies in Mumbai even as the police looked on. There were several instances where the middle-class residents of suburban Mumbai complained that large mobs entered their housing complex, threatened the guards and vandalized homes, taking away with them house-hold articles. There were also pitched battles fought between the middle-class localities and the mobs, even though the police would just drive past these areas sanguinely.
Does that not strike one as strange behaviour of the police. One tabloid newspaper in Mumbai openly suggested that the police were ordered not to take any action by the state government when the mobs vandalized the localities or when the train bogies were burnt. These days when cell phones are so widely used how did the police not know of the incidents taking place either in housing localities or about mobs gathered around Deccan Queen to set fire to it?
Surprisingly, no one is talking about the complete failure of law and order and an ineffective police force in the state. Leaders from various political parties and NGOs kept ranting about the hurt feeling of the community and how it has been ?spilt on the streets?. Some of the NGOs targeted the Dalits leaders sitting in Delhi for having egged the mobs to violence. But why not blame the state government and the party which ruled the state for having completely abdicated its responsibility of keeping law and order. Instead, the leaders in the state seem to be gushing at the prospects of having gathered the support of the huge Dalit population.
In Gujarat several commissions have been set up to delve into the police ?inaction? during the riots, even though over 400 people, mainly Hindus, have been dead in police firing. In Mumbai there was no report of any police firing on the mobs. The police have been non-existent during the riots when mobs went on a rampage across the city and nobody talks of instituting an inquiry into how the politicians in power had rendered the police completely dysfunctional.