Police vs Police

Two police actions involving Tajinder Bagga and Jignesh Mevani have bone-chilling portents for India. But they are just the tip of a very dangerous iceberg. The incidents speak volumes about the present and future of policing in India. The ruling party-police nexus is now an open secret. People in the streets take it as normal as anything else.

On April 20, Gujarat’s popular Dalit MLA Jignesh Mevani was arrested by the Kokrajhar division of Assam Police from Palanpur. The Gujarat police didn’t like it as they were kept in the dark. This despite Gujarat and Assam being Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states. The saffron establishment is not happy with the overreach by Assam chief minister at a time when BJP is facing tough anti-incumbency and is trying to win Dalit votes in Gujarat. For many people politics is a game of wrong signals and dog whistles. The vote mangers of BJP believe the Assam government’s ‘misstep’ of arresting Mevani will jeopardise their plan to reach the Dalit community in an assembly election year. After all what matters is vote. BJP being a covertly anti-Dalit outfit is trying to woo the Dalits to win elections, by highlighting apparently pro-Dalit cosmetics.

 These days police administration is a political wing of a state’s ruling party to do what it wants to. That’s not how criminal law sees it. As per the constitution police should be a law and order arm of the public. But the reality is completely otherwise. All ruling parties irrespective of their colour have done away with it. They think police force is there to serve their partisan interests only. In many cases they don’t even maintain semblance of police’s constitutional neutrality, threatening the sustainability of order in society. Even the leftists are no exception to this convention when they are rulers in any state. It doesn’t matter whether it is Bengal or Kerala. As a result people are increasingly losing faith in police and judiciary as well.

Mevani’s arrest gave Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) the idea that they could do the same in Delhi, to Bagga, BJP’s youth leader who has earned notoriety in hate preaching. In recent past AAP has been modelling and selling itself as a milder version of BJP, copying their modus operandi to a great extent. The Punjab police came all the way from Chandigarh to Delhi to nab Bagga. Surprisingly the Delhi police not only stopped them but called back up from Haryana police who together snatched the arrested man--Bagga. AAP has been in power in Delhi for long but this is the first time they have an official ‘force’ with guns under their control. And hence their extra-territorial manouvre against Bagga doesn’t bode well. It may create more inter-state tensions in future instead of easing them.

Power corrupts and it has already corrupted AAP extensively in Indian parliamentary culture, albeit the party came to power through anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare.

Last year Mizoram and Assam police clashed on the border and 6 Assam policemen were killed, over 70 injured. If 6 soldiers had been killed by the Pakistani army, the saffronites would have called for war.

In early 1947 there were dozens of tiny states in just a small portion of Saurashtra. Criminals would commit crimes in one state, run away to another state where the police of this state had no jurisdiction. Cops at times fought each other. The princely status has returned in disguise. State governments are being treated by the ruling parties as their exclusive fiefdoms while feudal lords with labels of MLA and MP have ‘divine’ right like kings and princes of yesteryears, to govern and threaten integrity of the country.

Police authority in India today has tremendous power but only under a political umbrella and not as per law as it is meant. The men in uniform are more like goons of politicians. Bagga was actually released by the intervention of the centre. For BJP hoodlums it sends the message that their bosses will protect them no matter what they do. BJP and AAP win but India loses.

Whether AAP benefits from muscle-flexing is open to question. The reality is as a small party AAP is not afraid to arm-twist even the all-powerful BJP. Maybe, Kejriwal’s men are seeking to take a leaf out of Shiv Sena’s book in tackling BJP. In truth these parties are doing the nicely scripted gallery show to divert public attention from the basic issues of inflation, unemployment, illiteracy, dwindling healthcare, electricity, water and all that. Bagga was arrested by a Punjab police team but cops from Delhi and Haryana who report to BJP governments freed him. The crime and punishment scenario in India is simply horrible.


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Vol 54, No. 47, May 22 - 28, 2022