Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Political response to the mass protests - Part-1


The last few days have been very stressing on the country. The last few days have also exposed the depths of ineptness (yet again) to which the UPA government can plunge to. Not wanting to be left far behind, sections of the "national" media competed with the UPA too! In a three part blog series, I wish to detail out the happenings over the past 10 days and discuss the political and media response to these events. 

From 17th December to 21st December 

On the night of December 17th, two friends (a boy and a girl) boarded a bus in Delhi at about 9:30 in the night. There were 6 people in the bus - these 6 people assaulted the boy; raped the girl and also assaulted her brutally. So bad was the girl assaulted that her intestines had to be removed, and she is still very critical and is fighting for life. The boy is recovering slowly and is able to walk around. All the 6 accused have been arrested, and produced in the court. They have agreed to having committed this crime. Infact, one of them has reportedly asked the judge to give him the death penalty! 

Since this happened in the heart of the capital city of India, the ugly incident set off a huge uproar - allegations flew left and right - the police were blamed for not stopping a bus with tinted glasses; for not patrolling enough; for not being serious enough about security to women etc. There were widespread demands that rapists should get the death penalty and nothing less. Fellow blogger at RealityCheckIndia superbly captures this entire death penalty for rape issue here. There is no further need to elaborate on that topic in this blog now. 

Violence on Saturday, December 21. 

Quite naturally, the outrage over this ghastly crime was to spill onto the street. Only this time, "street" became India Gate. On Saturday, December 21st, a leaderless crowd started gathering at India Gate, demanding "justice". "Justice" included tougher laws (like death penalty), fast track courts etc. The number of people turning up was just increasing by the minute. 

According to this report in The Hindu - "As the crowd swelled, it began moving up on Rajpath towards Rashtrapati Bhavan." And because "Raisina Hill" is a very high security zone, the police had to use water cannons and tear gas shells. 

NDTV reporters on twitter and on TV that day were continuously harping on "lumpen" elements in the crowd that have resorted to violence and they have hijacked this entire movement. They were continuously telling us that certain political groups have infiltrated the crowd and are now trying to politicize the event. 

So what exactly happened? Here's the depressing answer - we do not know. 

Who are those "lumpen elements"? Do we have even a single video which shows that these elements first provoked the police? If there was no provocation, why was such force used? Water canons, tear gas shells, lathi charges - all these were hurled towards peaceful protestors. Was this done only to prevent them from marching towards the high security area of Raisina Hill? When thousands of people are marching towards the power center of the country, why did no elected representative think it fit to come and talk to the crowd? Even assuming that "lumpen elements" in the crowd did provoke and instigate the police into such dreadful action - are our police not trained to differentiate between the "lumpen elements" and the rest? Why go about hitting anyone and everyone in the path? 

We need to know the answers to these questions, because it is this violence on Saturday that paved way for more on Sunday. 

Later, in the night (midnight infact), reports started pouring in that Sonia Gandhi "stepped out" of her house to meet "protestors" outside her house. Apparently, this same set of people also met the minister "incharge of internal security", Mr. RPN Singh (picture below). Assurances were apparently given that their "demands" will be definetely looked into. 



Some say they are NSUI activists, some say they were part of a sub group. So, who exactly were these "protestors"?  Here's the depressing answer - we do not know. 

Violence on Sunday, December 23rd. 

Now since Raisina Hill was off-bounds, the protesters were back at India Gate on Sunday, 23rd of December. They were back, because they were clueless on assurances. They were back because they now want to protest against Saturday's violence too. The police asked them to move to Jantar Mantar since there is no permission to protest at India Gate. The violence that ensued during the day was very reprehensible. 

In today's editorial, The Hindu says this:

"The police was ordered by the Union Home Ministry to clear the India Gate area of all protesters —evidently because of its desire to host Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, at Hyderabad House. "

In it's front page report on Monday morning, The Hindu had to say this: 

"Despite pleas by peaceful protesters, hooligans and political elements, including members of the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena that had assaulted Aam Aadmi leader Prashant Bhushan, battled policemen, damaged vehicles and set ablaze wooden lawn seats." 

That report itself goes on to explain that the assault by the police started well before "hooligans and political elements" battled policemen. Why was "Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena" singled out? Guess what - the police have registered cases against people who are supposedly members of the "Aam Aadmi Party" - so who do we believe now?

Why is there so much contradiction then? If the police were "ordered", were they also told on how to "clear the India Gate"? Who in the Home Ministry gave these orders? Incase you folks are not able to visualize how peaceful protestors got hit - there are many video available. Sample this one. A slide show of pics is also available here. Pictures clearly show who were throwing stones etc. Now, do you get the intensity of the violence that happened on Sunday? 

Also remember folks, it is the violence on Saturday that led to the violence on Sunday - that is the key point. There is a very very concerted effort to isolate the violence on Sunday with the one on Saturday. Even the Home Minister says that there will be an inquiry into the "India gate crackdown" - nothing about Raisina Hill !

So who precipitated the entire situation? Again - we do not know! 

So, who exactly is incharge? 

The Chief Minister of Delhi came on TV and said that the police is not under her control - so she cannot do anything. She started getting emotional and even said that she does not have the courage to face the victim. She was apparently hurt that Delhi was being labelled as the "rape capital" but she also says there is truth to it. The rape capital! 

She kept reminding us that the Lt. Governor of Delhi controls the police directly. Meanwhile, PTI puts up a report that the Union Home minister of state, who is "incharge of internal security" did a surprise inspection of Delhi buses. So the police reports to the Lt. Governor, who reports to the MoS Home, who reports to the Home Minister of the country, who reports to the Prime Minister of the country (constitutionally). 

The Lt. Governor was in the US, while all this was happening. He returned only on Monday, December 24th. MoS, Home, Mr. RPN Singh met "protestors" and promised to take a look at their demands. He was non-committal on who ordered the charge on the protestors. He even apologized to those who were physically hurt. 

The Home Minister of the country first held a press conference. On Monday morning, he spoke to multiple TV channels. A separate blog post is needed to analyse what he spoke. Till such time, here's an interview that you can watch and decide for yourself. 

The Prime Minister asked the Home Minister to take appropriate "action". The Home Minister says he took action because Sonia Gandhi telephoned him and said so. 

The chairperson of the ruling UPA coalition, Smt. Sonia Gandhi writes to the  CM "demanding" that action be taken and the CM laments that she has no power to do anything. Why then is Sonia Gandhi writing to the CM? How has the main issue of rape manifested into so many issues of multiple dimensions?Who exactly was incharge of this whole fiasco? 

We do not know!  

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