Herald View: Pitfalls of turning India into a police state
People have forgotten that police too must act within the law and cannot act arbitrarily or inconsistently. They need to be made accountable for their action if India is still not a police state
What is the dictionary definition of a police state? It is characterised by ‘repressive governmental control of political, economic and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially in place of the regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures’.
India under the Modi regime in short, as seen through the arbitrary bulldozing of homes in different parts of the country and the manner in which the Delhi police entered the Congress Party’s office in the national capital, hauled out its members, dragged them through the streets, kicked them to the ground and generally terrorised people who were exercising their democratic right to protest without being violent in any manner. Invading a space that is not a public domain is violation of every fundamental right guaranteed to Indians in our Constitution.
A party office is like a home to its members and a home is intended to be a safe haven to its residents, not just against the elements but also against arbitrary encroachments, invasions by outsiders, including criminals or even the government authorities. That is why we have the system of warrants that the police must secure from the judiciary if they wish to enter any home, even one belonging to dangerous criminals.
Combined with the fact that the Delhi police forced its way, without a warrant, into the Congress party office to drag out those intending to protest against the questioning of their party leader by the Enforcement Directorate – another arbitrary act by a government agency intended for the sole purpose of harassment and intimidation of a vocal opposition leader – this is little short of turning this democratic country into a police state. Such unwarranted forced entries probably never took place even during the British regime. But as Harry Truman had said, once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has only one way to go - and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.
However, the fearlessness of their singular bète noir, Rahul Gandhi, in taking on their government seems to have shaken this government’s democratic moorings to the core. The party in power today never had faith in democracy and the rule of law to begin with. However, now they have made a veritable art of using democracy to subvert that very democracy. Little by little, the current regime is uprooting all democratic norms and turning India into a police state on its route to fascism.
Adolf Hitler had created a perfect police state wherein the Gestapo could invade any home they liked, shoot down any citizen on a whim and be generally held to ransom by arbitrary government diktat. In the modern era, China has built a highly oppressive police state that treats any opposition or minorities as disposable items, Russia under Vladimir Putin is on a similar path and we seem to have taken a leaf directly out of Israel where police are alleged to have deliberately killed a Palestinian journalist and then violated her funeral by attacking the pall bearers.
As in these countries, our media looks the other way, the people seem almost drugged into stupour and do not protest even things that violate their rights and interests. By the time this regime is displaced there may be permanent damage to the nation’s collective psyche and conscience that will take a generational change to correct. And not without tremendous pain or before immense suffering.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)