Paranoid about protests: ‘Tour of Duty’ by Delhi Police as debate rages on who provoked whom
The BJP Government is paranoid about protests. Heavens would not have fallen if a few thousand Congressmen had walked with Rahul Gandhi for a kilometre or so and then persuaded to offer a sit-in
Two policemen were holding each of his arms. Two more held his legs and the four were dragging B.V. Srinivas, the stocky president of Indian Youth Congress. Srinivas, who became a familiar face in the national capital during the second wave of Covid by organising medical oxygen to the needy, had apparently violated section 144. He had provoked a mob which had set some tyres on fire on the street.
But the magnanimous Delhi Police did not arrest him. They did not hustle him into a bus and whisk him away to the police station. They were merely moving him, like a sack of potatoes, from the middle of the road to the side. There are video clips showing as much.
Suddenly a policeman comes rushing into the frame and lands a vicious kick on the dangling man’s back. What provoked him is not clear. Perhaps he had asked for an oxygen cylinder and Srinivas had failed to oblige him? Who knows? What is clear, however, is that Srinivas was in no position to provoke him, being dragged away by four burly policemen. Unless he had landed earlier an equally vicious kick on the policeman. Well, who knows?
What we do hear, however, is an upset Srinivas asking policeman the name of the policeman who kicked him. ‘Jo laat maara, uska naam chahiye’, he is heard saying. He certainly should not have asked the question. It was politically incorrect. Even if the paramour of the policeman’s wife, assuming she has one, stabs him, it will be Srinivas who would be hauled up.
Delhi Police does have a soft corner for him. They had landed up at the Youth Congress office during the pandemic to interrogate him. From where was he getting the oxygen cylinders to distribute to people when the Union Government was claiming there was no shortage of oxygen, no demand for oxygen and no death, therefore, due to oxygen shortage. Well, Srinivas had his explanation ready or else he would have been behind the bars by now.
This time too he had an alibi. Police had arrived at the AICC HQ at 3 am and pasted a notice that section 144 had been promulgated in the area. Section 144 around the ED office was par for the course but around the office of a political party? What is more, when Delhi Police entered the AICC office and roughed up workers and journalists, Srinivas was not the one to sit quietly in his office. No sir, he did rush out. He did raise his voice and he did lose his cool. He should have been in Delhi Police, in which case he would not have lost his cool, you see? Haven’t you seen Delhi policemen doing Yoga?
Well on their tour of duty this week, Delhi Police put up barricades outside the houses of several Congress leaders in the morning itself. Why wait for them to break the law and provoke mobs? Deepnder Hooda found himself under a virtual house arrest.
Two Congress chief ministers, Bhupesh Baghel and Ashok Gehlot, were stopped from visiting arrested or detained Congress workers in police stations. They were also for quite some time debarred from entering the AICC office. There must have been grave risk of the two CMs provoking their partymen.
Delhi police also barricaded roads around the AICC office. Trinamool Congress MP Jawahar Sircar tweeted, “This barricade blocks my MP’s quarter on Maulana Azad Rd, Delhi, morning till late night — for last 3 days — just because Congress is agitating on Rahul’s ED questioning miles away. No deliveries are allowed, no domestic helps can enter, as no ID card is acceptable to Delhi’s Police State!”
Ex-armyman Pravin Davar also shared a photograph and said, “This is the rear entrance to the AICC office. Couldn’t enter and was witness to the harassment of all residents of this portion of Meena Bagh where even milk for children was not allowed to be brought in.
Significantly, senior police officers were conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they don’t have much faith in the tour of duty. As a result, their minions roughed up Members of Parliament, tore off clothes of some of them and when they sat down on the road, they were pushed around, shoved, dragged on the road before taking them to police stations and detained. RS member Jothimani complained that when the women herded in the bus tried to buy drinking water, the police dissuaded the vendors from selling water.
Several Rajya Sabha Members, among them P. Chidambaram, K.C. Venugopal, Jebi Mather, Shaktisinh Gohil and Pramod Tiwari, the Rajya Sabha chairman was officially informed, had to receive medical attention. Two of them were suspected to have suffered hairline fractures.
Delhi has seen huge public rallies in the past. But this BJP Government is paranoid about protests. Heavens would not have fallen if a few thousand Congressmen had walked with Rahul Gandhi for a kilometre or so and then persuaded to offer a sit-in. A couple of hundred women, among them a few MPs, could have been persuaded to court arrest and taken away without much fuss.
But either Delhi Police has lost its touch and forgotten how to deal with large rallies or they were under instructions to provoke or get provoked. Who provoked whom remains the question.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)