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January 2021
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Columns
Deep rooted malaise
 
By K. Gopalakrishnan

The mad fury of followers of Godman Ram Rahim over their spiritual Guru’s conviction for rape demonstrates the weakening of the law enforcing institutions and increasing dominance of political masters in the administration. This has not happened overnight. The system has been under pressure from the ruling class for decades for petty political advantages and due to increasing distribution of patronages throwing to wind all established conventions, rules and regulations.

The casualty is not moral values alone but weakening of the system as a whole. Otherwise how can one explain the widespread violence, torching of railway stations, trains, OB vans and attack on the media personnel for convicting a person for the heinous crime of rape.

The police force in the country has been more or less made inactive by the ruling political elite. By placing favourites in key offices and following a carrot and stick policy, the police force almost all over the country is losing initiative. It has become inactive too, preferring signals from the political leadership to do their duty.

In Haryana this is the third time the administration failed to take effective steps to control an angry mob. First one was within a month of swearing-in of Manohar Lal Khattar as CM. Another Godman Baba Rampal, accused of murder, used his devotees as shield when police came to arrest him. The situation went out of control with 6 dead, many injured and destruction of private property. Then came Jat agitation for reservations.

Khattar again proved that such situations are not for him to manage. Human lives were lost and private property destroyed. Not that there are no efficient police personnel to lead the police in the state. But the force is not allowed to independently and impartially act. Political interests come in between forcing the police top bosses to choose the safe path of awaiting directions from the top.

In the case of Friday’s incidents in Haryana, which had a cascading effect in the neighbouring states too, this is exactly what happened. Gurmeet Ram Rahim and his followers voted for the BJP in the last elections. After the swearing-in the entire cabinet called on the Godman and sought his blessings. Even last week two ministers went to the Dera Headquarters, paid obeisance and handed over a cheque reportedly for Rs.51 lakhs to the organisation, said some reports. Any police officer would think twice to take any action against Ram Rahim or his organisation, given the ground realities.

Moreover, even Prime Minister Modi, had appreciated Ram Rahim’s good work in Swachch Bharat programme, according to reports. On October 29, 2014 , Modi tweeted, “Appreciable efforts by Ram Rahim ji and his team. Will motivate people across India to join Swachch Bharat mission”. It is just a matter of fact tweet, but coming from the prime minister of India will make the bureaucracy to look at it with awe.

What happened in Haryana was that the police had information about Ram Rahim followers heading for Panchkula but did not take enough steps in advance to prevent such a mass assemblage in anticipation of the judgment on the rape case. Lathis, incendiary materials in huge quantities could not have escaped the eagle’s eye of the intelligence men. Their propensity for violence is not unknown, particularly the army of Ram Rahim.

When orders came from above when the mob went violent, the police could control the mob within reasonable time. Clearly it was a failure on the part of the Haryana government. They forgot that Narendra Modi had promised good governance and impartial action against the guilty. At least Haryana government had failed to implement these promises of the prime minister if one objectively analyse the record so far of the Khattar government. It is no exaggeration to state that a stern administrator like prime minister has given rather a long rope to Khattar.
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The growing nexus between the criminals and the politicians are there for long, which was brought to light by the Vohra Committee. The abandoning of election campaign on the basis of policy, programme and ideology and opting for the short cut to win elections through caste and communal appeals have led politicians nearer to leaders of these groups.

Virtually all political parties indulge in soft communal and caste campaigns, including in selection of candidates on the basis of the caste communal origins. But in recent times some parties have resorted to hate campaigns. All these do reflect in the post-election administrative culture. Consequently Friday like violence happen as the normal administrative initiatives and pro-active law and order steps fail to happen, waiting for orders from above when men or women close to the rulers are involved in sensitive matters.

The situation has worsened that even to deliver a judgment in a sensitive case police protection is needed. Politicians praise the judiciary if they are exonerated and an adverse judgment attracts protest meetings and processions in front of courts. No party is free from such behaviour these days. Late Sanjay Gandhi’s behaviour in Delhi courts in post emergency cases and Maneka Gandhi’s conduct in Shah Commission were the early such instances in the late seventies.

Similarly police officers have to suffer humiliation when they have to handle VVIP criminals. One saw some police officers escorting Ram Rahim with utmost respect, bordering on servile behaviour, whereas the Godman was in supercilious demeanour on Friday after the arrest. In spite of convicting him for rape Gurmit Ram Rahim enjoyed VVIP treatment thanks to his proximity to the powers that be in Haryana. BJP one should note that is grateful to all those supported the party in elections, even to criminals. Not of course anything creditable to a party which had promised better governance.

Interfering with the police administration and directing the investigation of criminal cases have become a weakness with chief ministers all over the country. To make rule of law effective the government should allow the administration to act independently and objectively. Undue importance and favours to criminals should end. The malaise is deep rooted. Perhaps would require a surgical intervention to make the administration free and healthy.


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