Public pressure in India wields great power. It can decide right and wrong based entirely on 'sentiment' — and the size of the crowd that gathers to express that sentiment.
So, the Delhi Police on June 16 suspended three officers on the matter of the violence that broke out in Mukherjee Nagar over a tempo driver clashing with a police officer. According to a video of the brawl that has gone viral, it all started after a Gramin Sewa vehicle, reportedly being driven by one Sarabjeet Singh, hit a police patrol van. A plainclothes police official asked Singh to bring his vehicle to the station, at which point Singh apparently wielded his sword and tried to intimidate the official.
As more police officials joined in to try and grab Singh, he reportedly hit one on the head with his sword, after which officers rained lathis and blows on Singh to subdue him. Singh's son, who was with him, reportedly drove the vehicle into the melee, hitting the officers. It is then that the officers reportedly got hold of the young son too. It was shortly after this that a massive crowd descended on the local police station to protest what Singh had gone through.
The violence of this entire episode aside, it is shocking that a man can wield a sword at an officer on duty — and then, since a whole community steps out in support of the man, three officers get suspended.
No civilised society can allow people to carry weapons with them — worse still, flash them at people tasked with enforcing the law of the land.
We cannot expect our police officers to do their duty if we allow people to intimidate them with weapons.
The suspension order was reportedly passed after nearly 500 Sikh men gathered outside the Mukherjee Nagar police station demanding action against the officers who had allegedly beaten up Singh.
Ironically enough, a video surfaced Monday which shows ACP (Shalimar Bagh) KG Tyagi reportedly also being beaten up by protesters when he went to inform them about the suspension of three personnel.
This is exactly how a jungle raj looks.
Justifying the suspension of the three officers, Delhi Police chief Amulya Patnaik said, "We have a zero-tolerance policy towards unprofessional conduct or unnecessary excess, even while performing official duties or handling a crowd."
But how could Patnaik not see the threat that Singh and later, his supporters, posed to his own men? Police personnel can be literally seen running from the incensed mob which came to the police station ostensibly seeking justice.
Patnaik knows much better than others about the extreme conditions under which police personnel work. This is not to say that there are no excesses ever. This is not to say that police personnel are above the law. This is also not to say that it was okay to beat up Singh.
But to turn the heat on the officers and not ask crucial questions — like how manufactured public anger is being used to armtwist the police and the name of religious freedom to wield a sword — is a disservice to the men who stand out there in the heat and dust, performing their duties every day.
This case could well set an example for those who think it is alright to misbehave with the police or law enforcement agencies by playing up the religious card.
That is absolutely unacceptable.