The anarchic rot has taken deep root in the establishment. It is a cliché to say that the government’s left hand often does not know what the right one is doing. A well-worn variation of that, one that still raises a titter or two, asserts that the left hand does not know what the left hand is doing.
Now this too has come to pass in the benighted Capital of India in the wake of last February’s riots in which 53 people died. Delhi’s Keystone Cops have gone out and rounded up 21 suspects some of the “usual” kind as in the film Casablanca and others unusual and, as the Americans would say, “thrown the book at them.” All 17,000 pages of it collected, collated or concocted over six months. The bunch of merry men have also thrown the book or pages thereof at the suspects, obligingly providing them with the real names, the matching pseudonyms and the contact details of some 15 “protected” witnesses who are obviously no longer so protected. Like the Lord who taketh but also giveth.
Leaving nothing to chance, the police have charged the suspects with everything barring spitting on the pavement: rioting, using deadly weapons, unlawful assembly criminal conspiracy and for good measure various provisions of the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which makes bail near-impossible and 26 sections of the Indian Penal Code, including for murder, sedition, promoting communal enmity, two sections of the Arms Act, and four sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Another observation comes to mind about law enforcement in the country and where other than “Ulta Pradesh” some of whose top cops are determined to pin anything from minor traffic infringements to heinous crimes and conspiracies on the Popular Front of India, a militant Muslim outfit.
The Uttar Pradesh police found their opportunity soon after the Bhim Army Chief Chandra Shekhar Azad and others of his outfit visited Hathras to meet and commiserate with the family of the 19 year old Dalit gang rape victim who died of serious injuries inflicted on her by her killers. Losing no time they filed an FIR against Azad. The cops then proceeded with great vim and vigour to build yet another catch-all case of sedition and conspiracy to bring down the UP government, alleging that the Popular Front of India (PFI) was pouring crores of rupees in to instigating caste-based violence and Bhim Army was complicit.
Fortunately for Azad the law seemed have to been more even handed this time. The Enforcement Directorate has quashed speculation that there are links between the PFI and the Bhim Army. It has also said that talk of Rs 100 crore having been pumped into instigating protests over the Hathras violence was untrue and that no such amount has been recovered.
And then we have the curious case of Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old human rights activist who has fought long and hard to defend the land rights of Adivasis against various giant mining corporates. His work lies in Jharkhand but he’s been arrested in the Elgar Parishad Bhima Koregaon case in Maharashtra. Swamy denies all involvement in an event meant to commemorate the defeat of Upper caste Marathas by the Mahars in 1818. Evidently it has since become an assassination plot. Swamy has been arrested by the Centrally run NIA, not by the Maharashtra police where the event took place or Jharkhand where he lives and works.
Significantly the Chief Ministers of both states are against the central action. Hemant Soren, the Jharkhand CM has actually come out to tweet: "What message does the BJP want to give out by arresting 83-year-old Stan Swamy who raises the voices for the suppressed, poor people and Tribals. What kind of obstinacy is this?" Soon after Udhav Thackeray took charge of the Maharashtra government, the state police was asked to take another look at the Bhima Koregaon case commissioned earlier by the predecessor, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis. The central government hastily had it transferred to the NIA.
We are back in the times of China’s warlords, a period (1916-28) when control of that country was divided among former military cliques of the erstwhile central army and other regional factions.
A depressed actor sadly does away with himself and the Mumbai police proceed to investigate it as a suicide case. Mumbai is under a coalition non-BJP government. The actor is from Bihar, headed for elections shortly. The actor’s parents complain to the Bihar police who arrive in Mumbai to investigate without authorisation from their counterparts and are stalled. The case is promptly handed over to the CBI (earlier described by the BJP when in opposition as a “caged parrot”). Strenuous efforts are made to show it was a murder and not a suicide failing which a suicide instigated by the actor’s former live-in friend and that because she is believed to have moved closer to the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s son who is also a minister in the state government. A sort of two birds with one stone effort in which the reputation of a non-BJP government will be tarnished while gaining much mileage for the BJP as a staunch defender of “Bihar’s late son” in the midst of an election there. Posters are printed and distributed to prove this point.
Even as the CBI case appears to be falling to bits, both murder and abetment to suicide, a clearly unhinged actress pops up to accuse all and sundry in the Mumbai film world of either peddling or consuming drugs in industrial quantities. Exeunt the CBI followed by the Narcotics Control Bureau. Meanwhile forensics at the All India Institute categorically pronounce that it was, after all, a suicide.
All the while a few of the world’s most raucous, ill-informed and dubiously partisan television channels keep up an unending cacophony of self-righteous noise once described as sound and fury signifying nothing. It still appears to be exactly that since nothing has changed. Some channels are silenced briefly when serious allegations appear that they’ve been fiddling with TRP figures to their advantage, equivalent to robbing the collection box in a church or the donation box in a temple. They lapse into a semblance of silence after shaking their fists at the cops, threatening dire consequences. From whom? Their political mentors?
Examine dispassionately the aftermath of this chaos: two state police forces at loggerheads with each other purely for political purposes, two central agencies falling over themselves one trying to prove murder, the other drug peddling in massive numbers. Less government more governance? One state police farce that is thwarted (temporarily or otherwise) by a Central Financial Agency, whose boss has handed charge to the “hand of God.”
Meanwhile the late “son of Bihar,” through no fault of his own but apparently doing away with himself, is transformed from being a victim of the Bollywood mafia to a depressed drug addict. His once live-in friend spends weeks stoically in jail, protesting her innocence and is finally released on bail. There does not seem to be much going against her legally so far (depending on the court that’ll eventually decide). The crores of Rupees she allegedly bilked the actor out of has vanished. She is a proud daughter of Bengal that goes to the polls in 4-5 months-time. Is it possible that the usually loquacious Didi of Bengal will remain silent on the matter come election time?
Meanwhile the unhinged actress surrounded by Y-category security, a gift from the Union Home Ministry, has made herself scarce after accusing the Maharashtra government of having turned the fair city of Mumbai into a “mini-PoK.”
So who or what runs the country and its various parts? The Centre? The States? Both or neither? The loony actress? The shady TV channels? Perhaps Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has point. Last week he told a bunch of businessmen that India was the “poster child of what not to do.”
I doubt many in audience understood or agreed, but that phrase said it all.
( Views are personal)