If police and the government show the will

If  a major communal flare up could be prevented last week by the combined  efforts of the police and community leaders and the administration, in  the Hauz Qazi locality of Old  Delhi, then these queries hit:   why is  rioting not  prevented by the administration in other  sensitive  locales of the country?  Why is rioting ‘allowed’ to take place and then made to continue, till hundreds are rendered homeless and limbless?  Why are innocent men and women and even children from the socially- economically marginalized sections,  targeted ever so brutally as rioting  continues under the watchful eyes of the  police, who stand there as mute spectators or even  play a partisan role?

In fact, whilst keying in, I’m reminded of what Gujarat’s first whistle blower cop, R.B.  Sreekumar, had told me during the course of an interview: if the police and the politicians genuinely and earnestly want,  then rioting cannot take place and even if it does take off,  then it can be controlled and contained within two hours.  Perhaps, to elaborate this, he had detailed that even whilst the 2002 pogrom was peaking in Ahmedabad, the then DGP of  Gujarat was helpless. To quote from Sreekumar’s book - Gujarat:  Behind The Curtain  “In the afternoon (of 28 February 2002), I met DGP K Chakravorti in his chamber. I found him quite perturbed, helpless and stress-ridden about widespread mass violence in the cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and many rural areas. He lamented that things were taking a bad shape and activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP were leading armed crowds, and police officers, at a decisive level on the ground, were not intervening effectively as they were keen on avoiding crossing swords with supporters of the ruling party...”

Its obvious that if political and administrative rulers want,  then the riots can be prevented and stopped. In the case of HauzQazi it got  apparent that  Arvind  Kejriwal’s AAP government in Delhi genuinely wanted the  communal  surcharge  to be contained as  swiftly and  prudently as possible. And so sanity cum calm cum peace prevailed in that locality.

But sadly in a majority of cases in the other towns and cities of the country,  rioting has been made to continue by the political rulers, till  hundreds and thousands were left dead or severely affected...perhaps for  generations to come.  In fact, whilst  reading  Harsh Mander’s  book – ‘Fatal  Accidents of   Birth : Stories of  Suffering, Oppression  and  Resistance’ what  caught my attention was this particular chapter ’Life Among the Graves’.  It  focuses  on a  survivor  of  Gujarat pogrom of 2002, Khalid Noor  Mohammad, who talks “ about the  seventy -five  years of his life , as though its  significant  landmarks were all major communal riots.  He spoke of them the way other people talk of  life events-  births , deaths , weddings. The Partition  riots of  1947  in which he  lost his father , the  Ahmedabad  riots of  1969 which  broke a  long  interlude of  peace , the Jagananth  riots of 1985,  the  sectarian  violence that followed in the wake of the  demolition of the   Babri  masjid  in 1992 , and  now the  carnage of  2002 … ‘.  I have  seen many riots ,’Khalid  said, ‘ and each time  we have  moved on.  But this hullad was completely different.  My  body  may  still have some strength, but this riot  has  just  broken  my  spirit.  Earlier, they   killed our men and attacked our  homes and shops. But women and  children were  mostly  spared. Never  before this  merciless  burning of  our  people, even of  infants and  small children.  Never  before this  mass  rape and humiliation of our women. Never  before  have so many of us  been  rendered  completely  homeless.’ ”

In fact, if one were to study the  riots and  rioting patterns in the country, the one  big  factor that  hits  almost   immediately is this  -the  biased role of the cops under the  direct  control of the   political  rulers.  In this context, the Iqbal Ansari-edited volume –‘Communal Riots - The   state and law in  India’- is of  immense significance.   It  carries reports  by IPS officers: Padam Rosha  , KF  Rustamji,  CV  Narasimhan, VN  Rai.  Also by civil servant, NCSaxena.   And also by the well-known   names of the   judiciary:  Justice  Hosbet  Suresh , Justice VR  Krishna  Iyer, VM  Tarkunde.  And also by  academics of the calibre of  Professor Mushirul  Hasan and several others… And those reports  raise  pointers to the administration’s biased role and  also that of the  police.

Space constraints will not permit me to quote from these very detailed reports contained in this volume but if any planner or ruler genuinely wants to study the destructive forces behind rioting in this country and the deadly aftermath of the   biased role of the police on the already marginalized, then this volume holds out much in terms of the ground realities.

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