Violence that seems legal

Bhaskar Majumder

A clash had broken out between lawyers and police on the premises of a prominent court in the capital city of India on November 2, in which several police officials and lawyers were injured, it is reported. Since past few years I find continuation of physical violence of people in power or perceived so. Power may have many connotations but in the anatomy of the state it is the power of the Judiciary, of the Military, of the Police, if the major wings – one for Policy and one for Executions – are left out. In the Judiciary, it is of the lawyers (in the Heartland it is pronounced often as ‘Liar’). My problem is not with linguistics by spelling or pronunciation. My problem is deeper if my readers agree with me. The problem is centralized legal exhibition of physical power by a section of the lawyers in the national capital of India. This power is exercised across board – it does not make anybody untouchable.

Violence is nothing new in human history. Often I used to hear from the students in the classroom in one of the reputed Central Universities in Bihar (it could be elsewhere), ‘Marx ne Violence shikhaya’ (Marx taught violence). My understanding is violence was/is not peculiar to Marx notwithstanding his master proposition in Communist Manifesto, ‘Development is the struggle of the opposites’. My concern here is not to re-examine Marx. My concern is very simple: how come the lawyers in the Court premises become violent to abuse or physically repetitively assault the no-less-dignified members of the society. There is no denying the fact that violence is top down even when it looks bottom up. The reason is simple: the bottom cannot hit the top. It is, however, not clear if the lawyers are at the top or the police. Each represents the state by functioning within the frame of the Constitution of India.

Universal rights of individuals include right to life or right to live with dignity. Dignity connotes much more than biological life. Getting assaulted in the public space or getting assaulted in the Court space means that rights are violated. These rights are reciprocal. A has the right to live means B cannot kill her. B has the right to live means A cannot kill her. There is no need to make any consensus on this for it is universal embedded in the very birth of the individual. The theory is being activated by both the sections – police and lawyers – both are sitting on public road in protest against the assault. It seems, from state-men they are now displaying the identity of social men or members of civil society. Undeniably, social citizenship is much more difficult than state citizenship.

With or without consensus, what I have been observing since the recent past the representatives or interpreters of law taking law in their own hands (and hand of law is long) to physically assault not only students of JNU (among others) but also the Police. I had the idea that police were more Dabang that I asked some of my students in the Heartland. But most of them replied that the Lawyers were more Dabang. I could not understand it for the Police had the legitimate right over Danda and Gun that the lawyers could not carry. But then I understood as a late learner that the Police also would need lawyer in the Court of Law (Judiciary) to represent his case even if he is assaulted. After all, it has to be proved in the Court of Law; Police cannot take law in their own hands (they could take Danda or Gun but not law!).

But the question remains. How could the custodians of law take law in their own hands in the public domain to assault others?  Was there any provocation? Was it a second round that the lawyer was assaulted in the first round? In case of assaulting students on the Court premises I could not locate any initiation from the victim’s side – it was absolutely unprovoked – the lawyer(s) assaulting the student. Was it for non-chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai?’ Had it been so, then what prompted them to assault the Police for the latter always utters Jai Hind, Bharat Mata ki Jai and all that. So where had been the conflict between the Police and the Lawyers particularly when both the categories are state representatives?

Expression of violence is never final. There is no Final Call! It is like non-ending dots where one dot implies full stop and two or more dots imply continuity. The actors may be the same or different. Even if it is continuous and monotonic, one may expect the curve to remain horizontal or downward sloping. It becomes unacceptable in the civil society if it has a positive slope. But then where is it going to be truncated if it has a tendency to be upward sloping and then how, once in principle it is agreed upon that violence is killing.

Some years back I hired a pre-paid taxi from New Delhi Railway station to reach JNU to take a viva of a research scholar. It had nothing to do with violence – even the theme of the Thesis had nothing to do with violence – it was innocuous. But the young driver declined to enter into the Gate of the University. I asked, why. He replied, it is an anti-national University and that the glass windows of his car would be hit by bricks if he entered. I assured him, nothing such would happen. Ultimately he agreed and I reached the Guest House. The above episode is only to express my experience that has nothing to do with the national status of JNU – for it represents universal status.

But the central question remains. It is about abusing physically – not ‘’Hit n Run’’. The strong man was bold enough to display his might in the public domain as if it was legitimized.  Meanwhile a legal notice has been served by an advocate of the Apex Court to the Commissioner of Delhi Police for allegedly not taking any action against police who demonstrated in the capital city on November 5th 2019. The notice sought action against the police who staged public demonstration. It was reported that the police addressed the media also projecting the lawyers in a poor light. In the eye (not hand) of law the demonstration of police on public road seemed illegal and irresponsible that violates the Police Forces (Restriction of Rights) Act 1966.  

This is a civilization of Buddha-Chaitanya-Gandhi. This is a civilization of Ramakrishna-Vevekanda-Tagore. If we respect that then there is no scope of exhibition of such muscle power in the public domain. Violence cannot be legal. If some people have excess capacity, then there is enough scope to demonstrate that on the ground of games and sports, on the border of the geographic boundary for security etc. As a natural member of the society I decline to accept legal violence.   

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

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Nov 8, 2019

Bhaskar Majumder [email protected]

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