LOOK at the three recent events to understand a method in the madness of police excesses by the UPA government. First, it was the midnight swoop on Baba Ramdev and his followers at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi where sleeping women and children were thrashed and beaten up because they were asking for black money stashed away in foreign lands to be brought back to India. Some of the victims are still in hospital.
Then came Mayawati’s reprehensible attack on farmers in Bhatta Parsaul which was taken up by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to win political brownie points. The earlier action by the Maharashtra State Government in Jaitapur village in Konkan against the farmers who are against the nuclear plant was a harbinger of things to come for farmers in the state.
But the worst of all in recent history was the way BJP youth wing members were mercilessly beaten up by police during a protest rally in the country’s capital to protest against the Commonwealth Games scandal in which the Prime Minister himself has knowingly refused to go against ministerial and PMO counsel to choose Suresh Kalmadi as chairman of the organising committee. In follow up reports in the media the stink is now encompassing Congress President Sonia Gandhi in the murky deals.
In Maharashtra, police firing at 500 unarmed farmers agitating on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at Talegaon claimed three lives and injured several people. The toll is expected to rise further owing to the state of the injured people. The farmers were protesting against a state government plan to lay water pipelines from Pavna dam to Pimpri-Chinchwad. The farmers feared their land would be acquired for the project for measly sums of money. Here too there is a design in the way land acquisition is progressing. The fertile land of the farmers has been slowly deprived of irrigation water to lower the land price as well as make it easy for farmers to give up on their property. The ploy of the state government is brazen as much as suspect.
The government’s strategy to crush democratic means of protests is now almost predictable. People from Shivane, Kotharde, Ozarde, Urse, Karla and Beaur villages had gathered for the protest at the Expressway. The goings on had been peaceful till the time police opened fire on the people without any warning. According to the villagers, all political parties except the NCP supported their agitation. Top NCP leaders who are part of the UPA-II government at the Centre are hugely benefiting from the land deals in the region. The Superintendent of Police Sandip Karnik was in charge of the situation.
The police version is quite different from the media reports. “There were around 500 angry protesters trying to block the Expressway, and the mob was getting violent. We fired 21 tear gas shells and 25 rounds of rubber bullets before I opened fire because our policemen were getting attacked,” Karnik said. “After the local netas finished their speeches, around 12.30 pm, we appealed to them to clear the Expressway but the mob got violent and started pelting stones on the police. The police inspector of Vadgaon Maval was injured after a stone hit him. At that time we were compelled to open fire”, the police superintendent said.
Farmers and other local villagers said that the police started hitting the locals even though most of them were not part of the agitation. Not that it was right to beat up people protesting on the Expressway. They alleged many of the injured and killed were just spectators. One eyewitness Lakshman Dahibhate who hails from Urse village said, “Moreshwar Sathe was held by the police and shot in the head. We saw all this. It was scary and shocking.”
Vishal Rohidas Raut, another villager was hit by a bullet on the right shoulder. His uncle Dilip Raut told the media, “we have not participated in the agitation. But the police came to our house and ransacked it, and damaging two-wheelers in our courtyard.”
The police excesses under the UPA government or the Congress state governments are telling when compared to the way rioters are being handled by police in the UK. For almost three days rioters have been burning buildings in London and nearby cities north of it. But the police have been very controlled and overly considerate at taking on the vandals. UK Prime Minister David Cameron after the third day of rioting finally allowed the police to use rubber bullets though that step is also being argued vociferously in British media.
Experts who talk about the UK riots often say that police are well-disciplined and are trained to handle situations. The inference is that in India the police force does not have adequate training to look at things in a humanitarian way. The police often are projected to be trigger-happy even when dealing with innocent, unarmed population who take to streets in protest, which is in any event, their basic right. The argument is specious as well as misplaced. In November 2006, for instance, a huge mob of lower caste population burned down seven bogies of Deccan Queen after forcing passengers to alight at Ulhasnagar near Mumbai. There were riots on the streets of Mumbai following the train burning, but the police stayed their hand all through the riots because they were given express instructions to handle protestors with care. Those instructions were for all to see.
The strategy of the UPA government at the Centre or the Congress state government seems to be to instill a sense of fear among protesters fighting against unfair land acquisition or black money stashed away in Swiss banks. In case of Baba Ramdev and his followers, the BJP youth wing protesters outside Parliament, the Bhatta Parsaul, Jaitapur or the Pune farmers’ agitation, the express instruction from the powers-that-be seems to be to hit where it hurts most. That is why the police in Delhi or Maharashtra are found wanton and trigger-happy. Wonder what Rahul Gandhi has to say about all this after his evangelical movement against police excesses started in UP.