Note the Public Anger and Act, Promptly by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (DECEMBER 26, 2012)

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam urges the governments of Delhi state and Centre to act quickly before the wildfire of public frustration engulfs the whole country.

The mammoth rally at India Gate on Sunday, December 23, was a dramatic expression of mass anger at the utter failure of the state of Delhi and the government at the Centre to protect people’s life, honour, limb and liberty. The latest round of fiery protests began after the gang rape of a young woman right under the nose of the Union government’s nerve centre and within the administrative jurisdiction of the Delhi government.

This gang rape is different only in its high visibility from the gang rapes and individual rapes (mostly in daylight, many in vehicles moving around high security areas). Nobody’s behen beti is safe, including of those who are power-drunk today, but will be as insecure tomorrow as you and me.

The citizen has a right to ask questions about the conduct of public servants (who are trying to be the public’s masters) because it is from public money that the police and bureaucracy get their salaries, their perks (mostly unjustified), their pensions that keep their kitchen fire burning. Instead of working to serve us, they are busy running extortion rackets and sinking deeper and deeper into a cesspool of bribery. The public anger is a 100 percent justified.

Mostly in stress situations the police and magistracy end up beating and brutalising aggrieved and angry protesters instead of handling them with sensitivity. In communal riots they are rarely neutral, and most often join the demented mobs, encouraging them to loot, rape, murder, plunder and burn. Many of them commit these crimes personally. In Mumbai 1992-93, police conversations on wireless, the transcripts of which were published by the New York Times, clearly showed their direct, and active, involvement in the crime, a fact confirmed by Justice Shrikrishna.

We are rightly proud of our democracy. (Had it not been because of our faith in our democracy, I would not be writing this critical piece.) Still, our democracy is deeply flawed, more flawed than many other advanced democracies. Conducting elections every five years and ensuring peaceful transfer of power is all right, but the way the “Little Citizen” is being treated by authority does not do our democracy proud.

The India Gate protests were badly handled as usual. Many peaceful young women and men, including journalists, were savagely beaten up and seriously injured for no fault of their own. Such unthinking, reflex-driven action on the part of the police and paramilitary incensed the crowd, and the less disciplined and more angry sections of protestors attacked policemen and their vehicles. As usual, the police and supporting paramilitary acted not as our protectors but like foreign occupation forces. This must change. If it does not change after 64 years of freedom from the British, we would not be able to blame the British for our own evil and incompetence any longer.

The fire of mass anger is still burning, even after the Prime Minister’s appeal for calm. However, we will do well to remember that calm is not restored just because somebody has appealed for calm. It comes only after the hurt begins to heal and the administration is seen to be addressing it. At present what is involved is not merely the punishment for a particular gang rape, but for all others, as swiftly as possible. Also, the acceleration of court proceedings on all such cases on a day-to-day basis, the end of police extortion racket, and resumption of meaningful policing. All this to make Delhi safe for women.

One is happy to see the protesters shoo away Baba Ramdev, asking him not to politicise the issue. This shows their maturity and clear-headedness. One would like to remind our dear citizens to exercise some restraint and keep a watch on rowdy elements who enter such rallies, only to harm the cause ultimately. At the end, one must tell the Centre and the state not to come down too heavily on angry citizens because such acts are likely to fan the flames across the country. If that happens, the powers that be in Delhi will have only themselves to blame.

 

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