From the Viewsroom

Law and order, please

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on July 16, 2019

The police must stand up to vigilantism and unruly behaviour

The rules were straightforward in earlier decades. If a riot erupted, the district police superintendent was instantly transferred out, usually to a less salubrious posting. The argument was if he’d kept his ear to the ground, he’d have been able to nip any trouble in the bud. Now, the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission has prescribed stiff jail sentences for mob violence and said police officers should be transferred out in cases of cow-protection violence. Self-styled gau rakshaks, in reality often local strongmen out to make money, have been prowling highways and waylaying trucks in the guise of protecting cows. They beat up and, in extreme cases, lynch victims. Most famously, in 2015, a mob in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, dragged Mohammad Akhlaq from his home, lynched him and seriously injured his son. Since then, there’ve been scores of similar incidents, almost all in BJP-ruled States. Another high-profile case was the 2017 lynching of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan’s Alwar district. Even though a Congress government is now in power, in June a charge-sheet was filed against Khan’s two sons. The BJP argues cow-protection killings occurred under earlier governments but received less publicity. What’s clear in most cases is police could stop lynchings if they’d a mind to and many are taking cuts from gau rakshaks.

In many cases, the political class leads the way in stirring violent incidents. Take a look at Madhya Pradesh MLA Akash Vijayvargiya, son of powerful BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya who attacked a bureaucrat with a cricket bat in Indore. Akash wasn’t even remotely contrite. After a few days silence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sternly condemned such violence. Since then, little has been heard of the younger Vijayvargiya but he’s one of many politicians eager to call the shots with police. Most urban-dwellers are happy to ignore such violence as being in remote areas and not concerning them. But gau rakshak groups are already roaming in Gurgaon in the National Capital Region. The first duty of police is preserving law-and-order. No government can claim to be successful unless it offers protection to all citizens in every corner of the country.

Published on July 16, 2019

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