Saffronised police show their colour ..The Hindu March 3rd
- Saffronised police show their colour
By Manas Dasgupta
AHMEDABAD, MARCH 2. The communalisation of the Gujarat police under the BJP administration in the State is complete and the uniformed men have given ample demonstration of it when Ahmedabad and most other parts of the State were burning in the cauldron of communal carnage in the aftermath of the gruesome Godhra train attack.
In the score-sheet of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the police must have earned cent per cent marks for the way it acted as an extended arm of the communal elements indulging in looting and arson, selectively targeting the shops, houses and business establishments of the minority community. For 24 hours, the hooligans had a field day with the police looking the other way round and in some cases even actually aiding and abetting in their crime. And once the mob tasted blood, there was no stopping.
True that the police were far outnumbered by the hooligans and anti-social elements joined by the local urchins fishing in the troubled water to take advantage of the VHP bandh call, but that could not be an excuse for the way the police behaved during the riots.
In many places, shops were looted and set afire right under the nose of the policemen and they even collected a part of the booty. Even as the hooligans were breaking a small mausoleum in the middle of a road barely a few metres away from the police commissioner's office, the police vehicles passing by, not only did not bother to intervene, the police actually gestured to the hooligans to go ahead. There had been at least 15 incidents of damaging and destroying minority places of worship which were overnight converted into ``temples'' with the police remaining a mute spectator.
It was not the first time the State witnessed such large scale communal violence, nor the percentage of policemen, vis-a-vis, the increasing population of the city and the State anytime higher than at present, but except for the days of the police revolt during the 1985 riots, such total inaction of the police was ever witnessed.
The police may not have demonstrated such impotency without a tacit approval from above which they received from the ruling party extending support to the bandh call. In such a situation, the police would always be hesitant to act lest it hurt the interests of the political bosses. And the saffronised police also found a common cause with the criminals to ``punish'' the minorities.
Insiders in the BJP admit that the police were under instructions from the Narendra Modi administration not to act firmly; apparently he wanted to please his RSS and VHP brethren in return for the help he received from the saffron brigade to acquire the top post and win the Rajkot-II Assembly byelection despite heavy odds.
It may not be mere co-incidental that Bapunagar, home constituency of the Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadaphiya, witnessed one of the worst communal scenes since the 1969 riots when the area was the hardest hit. Some of the senior BJP leaders and Ministers in the Modi Cabinet were also alleged to have participated in the destruction of the minority places of worship
The sensible people in the State feel that the ruling party was deliberately allowing the situation to deteriorate to reignite the ``hindutva'' sentiments taking advantage of the Godhra train carnage. The Godhra incident may have provided a ready situation for Mr. Modi to try to recapture some of the lost grounds for the BJP to fight the Assembly elections due in February next year. As of now, shocked by the Godhra incident, a substantial section of the Hindus is finding a common cause with the VHP and in turn the BJP, but whether the advantage could be reaped a year later, only the time will tell.
It also explains why the Modi administration deliberately delayed a decision to seek the assistance of the Army to allow free time to the hooligans to ``teach'' a lesson to the minorities.
It is to cash in on this sentiment that Mr. Modi, even risking criticism, had tried to virtually ``justify'' the vandalism on the bandh day as the ``natural outpour of anguish of the people'' for the ``terrorist-type pre-planned attack'' on the ``Ram sevaks'' in the Sabarmati Express. He also maintained that the mass murder in Meghaninagar and Naroda areas in Ahmedabad, in which more than a hundred people were burnt alive, were actually ``provoked'' by the minorities. Despite promising that not one culprit guilty of burning of shops or human beings would be ``spared'' by the administration, no action had been taken against any VHP leader or volunteer on the ground that no ``specific complaint had been received against them.''
Mr. Modi may allow the situation to drift because he is under no political compulsions. Having taken over the reins of the State only recently, he is not threatened to be replaced by the party. It would also be inadvisable for the Opposition to demand dismissal of his Government and imposition of the President's rule, because earlier the next election, more beneficial would be to the BJP.
De-saffronisation of the State police would perhaps become a major task before the next Government in the State after the Assembly elections.
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