Bhatt vs Modi: Police Are Not Political Pawns

In addition to political and media waves created by the arrest of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, it is imperative to look at it from another angle. The irony of his case is that he has been arrested for simply using legal measures against the involvement of Narendra Modi government in the 2002 Gujarat carnage. The role of Modi himself, his government and the Saffron brigade in targeting the state’s Muslim population was never a closely guarded secret. The same can be said about most police officers posted then in Gujarat. The state government, all officials and also citizens are expected to respect the country’s Constitution. This also implies that they can be accused of violating the country’s constitutional spirit and its legal system when and if they choose to take law into their own hands. By seeking legal help for ensuring action against those allegedly responsible for inciting and encouraging the communal violence against Muslims, where has Bhatt gone wrong?

Let us look at Bhatt’s role from another angle. As a police officer, his responsibilities include ensuring security of the citizens. Tragically, the Modi government and apparently a number of police officers don’t seem well aware of this responsibility. Even Modi and members of his government, before taking charge of their ministerial positions, take oath, promising to abide by the Indian Constitution. Gujarat carnage may not have occurred had these people actually given greater importance to the country’s Constitution than encouraging “legal” behaviour that suited their interests.

 Yes, it still cannot be forgotten that many policemen literally remained mute, turned their backs and closed their eyes, some even joined in as extremists targeted Muslims brutally. It is indeed tragic that rather than playing their part as responsible policemen, they chose to act at the alleged command of the Modi government to allow Hindus to vent their anger. And this demands attention to giving great importance to the degree to which the country’s policemen actually play the role they are supposed to do. Their duty is to ensure peace and security of the nation’s citizens and not remain passive supporters of communal elements indulging in riotous behaviour.

In this context, Bhatt is one of the few policemen, who is playing the role of a conscientious citizen, who still retains respect for his uniform, despite being suspended from his office. How many policemen actually possess this trait? Here, attention maybe drawn to communal riots which occurred recently in Rudrapaur, Uttarakhand. A group of Muslims collected to protest against sacrilege of their religious text. What they received was bullets from police guns which led to several deaths. The same treatment was not received by those who chose to target shops and other establishments owned by Muslims in Rudrapur. What else is this suggestive of but discriminatory behaviour by policemen towards Muslims? It is appropriate to draw attention to the month of September, last year, when tension gripped almost the entire nation over fear of a judicial decision over Ayodhya provoking communal riots across the country. Communal fire was not allowed to simmer even for a brief period. No political fuel was added to it. That was the phase when the respective governments at the Centre and in states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, gave importance to not allowing any communal tension to trigger. Undeniably, these governments and the policemen then on duty must be credited for living up fully to their respective constitutional responsibilities.

 And this raises the crucial point regarding the linkage between politicians in power and the policemen on duty. Are the latter expected to act at the command of whatever those in power decide, even if this amounts to literally abusing the responsibilities they are supposed to live up to? After all, the Gujarat carnage also reflects the degree to which the Modi government abused the power and responsibility they were entrusted with. The same can be said about the policemen who chose to act as commanded by those in power. It may be noted that the Gujarat carnage is just one major example of a dangerous mindset that has gripped many policemen. Before it is too late, substantial attention needs to be paid for checking this, which may be called a disease. Considering that instead of assuring security to the common citizens, particularly the minorities, the policemen have almost assumed the nature of a threat to them, measures need to be taken to correct this grievous error which has led to numerous innocent Muslims being killed, hurt or arrested. Firing bullets at any person or group of persons is equivalent to police taking law into their own hands and deciding that the ones they hold as “guilty” must be punished by being shot.

Bhatt is just one among the few policemen who have shown respect for their duties and responsibilities. He has raised his voice against politicians who have tried using him and other policemen as pawns without caring little for lives lost and abuse of Indian Constitution. This also demands focus on what prevents other policemen in understanding and duly executing the responsibilities they are entrusted with.