Urdu Media On Mumbai Police Comm. Patnaik’s Transfer

The transfer of Arup Patnaik, Mumbai Police Commissioner, is seen with suspicion by the Urdu media. Though Maharashtra Home Minister Mr. R R Patil has maintained that Patnaik, for his good work, was promoted to the post of Managing Director of Maharashtra State Security Corporation, the media believes otherwise. The view of the media is that he has been punished for not being hard on Muslim youth who turned violent during the Azad Maidan demonstration on August 11. “Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik Transferred: Promotion or Punishment?” reads the news headline of daily Sahafat.

Similarly, a news analysis published in daily Urdu Times also concludes that Patnaik’s transfer was a punishment for him as he did not deal with the violent mob with firm hand. In the analysis titled “Patnaik’s transfer: victory of communalism and defeat of secularism” Shakeel Rasheed writes, “This is not ‘promotion’, but punishment. Yes, Arun Patnaik is not the Mumbai police commissioner anymore. The Congress-NCP alliance says that Patnaik’s transfer was routine and that it has nothing to do with the Azad Maidan violence. In fact, it is ‘punishment’ and not promotion. Punishment, because Patnaik stopped his forces to rain bullets on Muslims protesting against atrocities on Muslims in Assam and Myanmar, why only two people were killed, why the death tally not touched 200 or 250, why Patnaik ensured peace of Mumbai is not shattered and why he prevented the 1992-93 like situation.”

In the editorial Arun Patnaik Deserved Reward!  the paper adds, “Despite vandalism from some Muslim youth Patnaik did not allow his police to use force relentlessly. Instead, upto the last moment he asked them to have patience. He saved not only Mumbai but also whole the state from riots. His good handling of the situation foiled the expectations of Hindutva outfits. So these outfit alleged him of being soft on the vandalizing mob. They also demanded his resignation. ”

The protest rally called by Raza Academy in collaboration with some other Muslim organizations had suddenly turned violent. The mob went on rampage setting ablaze media OB vans, damaging public buses and attacking policemen. The vandalism left around 50 policemen injured. There were all efforts to incite the police including snatching their revolvers and molesting female policemen. The police could have resorted to heavy firing in retaliation, but it was Arup Patnaik who himself took the command and instructed the police to exercise restraint. The Urdu media which often complains of police bias against Muslims had praised the wise handling of the crowd.

Later the media reported a top police official confessing that had there not been extreme restraint on the part of the police, there would have been a ‘holocaust’.

From security expert B Raman to super cop Julio Ribeiro, everyone praised Patnaik’s handling of the explosive situation. “When Patnaik reached the spot after the mobs had gone on rampage, his first reflex was to ensure that his force did not add to the heat of the riots by losing its cool and over-reacting. If Patnaik had not kept its force under control, there might have been many more fatalities resulting in a serious aggravation of the situation. In literally forcing the policemen to keep their cool and not to overact, Patnaik had acted according to his professional instincts, the training that he had received as a young officer and his long years of experience in dealing with such situations. Let us give him the credit for the way he exercised his leadership during those critical moments when the riots could have spread to many parts of Mumbai,” wrote Raman.

This, however, was not what the some communal elements like. The families of the deceased youth did not complain except that why the police fired above the waste.  The pro-Hindutva parties including BJP, Shiv Sena and MNS, however, criticized Patnaik because he did not curb the mob forcefully and according to them allowed it to go on widespread vandalism. In a show of strength MNS chief Raj Thackeray defying police took out a huge rally protesting the riots.

The rally brought Raj Thackeray once again in the limelight. Giving a new twist to the Azad Maidan riots is a report in Sahafat daily “The Possible Hand of Raj Thackeray Group In Azad Maidan Violence” whichasks whether Muslim volunteers of MNS had staged the riots. The purpose: to provide Raj Thackeray with a chance for growing his stature. In the rally, Thackeray among many things demanded resignation of R R Patil and suspension of Arup Patnaik. Within less than two days, Patnaik was transferred.

The media and saffron parties of Maharashtra also criticized Patil for government’s failure in Pune Blast, Azad Maidan riots and MNS rally. Patil, however, transferred the police commissioner to cool the temper of critics.

Arup Patnaik has the reputation of being one of the most honest officers in the Mumbai police force. He would support the raids on bars and pubs, running beyond permissible time limits, by the Social Service Branch headed by assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble. This action of the police though was supported many citizen groups, the liquor lobbies were not happy at all with it.

The immediate cause, however, for Patnaik’s removal was his failure to suppress the Azad Maidan rioters. “Is it the guilt of Patnaik that the police led by him showed restraint? Is he guilty of controlling the situation and not letting a violent accident turn into full fledge riot?” asks daily Inquilab in an editorial “The Guilt of Patnaik?”

The paper also quoted a local Muslim leader Maulana Mustaqeem Ahsan Azmi as having said, “The way Patnaik played on his life to control the citizens and the police, is laudable. Otherwise instead of two, two hundred would have been killed. Surprisingly, some people protested against him and he was removed. This shows weakness of the government.”

By giving in to the pressure from the opposition to remove Patnaik without substantial reason the government has sent a wrong message; the Urdu Media believes. This is like discouraging a duteous officer like him.

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