Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Azad Maidan riot

On 11/8/2012 there was a rally at Azad Maidan by Raza Academy against attacks on Muslims in Assam and Burma. A riot followed. Media persons were attacked. Policepersons were attacked. Policemen were injured. Policewomen were molested. The rioters snatched rifles from some constables. The rioters tossed one constable up and down several times. There was arson and vandalism. There was firing. There was stoane pelting on trains. BEST buses and other vehicles were damaged. Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial was vandalised. Two persons died in police firing. Questions were raised about permission for the gathering and preparedness of the police. Some praised Arup Patnaik, Commissioner of Police, for restraint. Some criticised him. Some wanted a ban on Raza Academy. Some said the religion of miscreants had to do with police being soft on them. The police would have fired on farmers and Warkaris.

On 21/8/2012 there was another rally at Azad Maidan. This was by MNS to express solidarity with the police and media. It is said there was permission for the rally but not march from Girgaum Chowpatty. MNS claimed police did not specifically deny permission for the march. Raj Thackeray demanded the resignation of R. R. Patil and Arup Patnaik. He said “They have played with the morale of the police. Our policemen kept waiting for instructions to control violence. When a DCP caught hold of a rioter, Patnaik abused him and told him to let the offender go.”

When Raj Thackeray finished his speech, Pramod Tawde, a constable, walked up to him and presented him a yellow rose. He thanked Raj Thackeray for making the police force feel there is someone who thinks about their welfare and is standing up for them. He said, “When I urged Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik to take action against those responsible for beating up constables on August 11, he laughed it off, saying I looked like Subhash Chandra Bose.”

On 22/8/2012 police registered a case against Shirish Sawant, general secretary of MNS, for the march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan without permission. The police knew the march was to take place. They should have stopped before it began.

There were two articles on The Indian Express. First one was by Javed Anand and Teesta Setalvad on 17/8/2012. They praised Arup Patnaik for showing restraint in dealing with Muslim rioters. Second one was by Madhu Trehan on 22/8/2012. She asked: Is the law to be adjusted according the religion of the miscreant? She referred to the footage that showed Arup Patnaik shouting at DCP Ravindra Shisve who holds a goon by the collar “Who has told you to catch him?” He bellows to DCP “You take directions from the commissioner. You are not SP of Sangli. You are DCP here. You will not fall out of line or you will be suspended, stupid.”

For Arup Patnaik it was fine if a policeman entered a restaurant and slapped people or hit them with a hockey stick. He had defended Vasant Dhoble. It was not fine if a policeman caught a culprit.

For two consecutive days there were attacks on people from North-East in Poona. There was no prompt police action against attackers. Intelligence inputs or warnings about trouble that was to take place at Azad Maidan were ignored.

Julio Ribeiro appeared on CNN-IBN. He said he was proud of what Arup Patnaik had done. Sagarika Ghose did not ask him whether he was proud of attacks on policemen and molestation of policewomen. She did not ask him whether he was proud of a Commissioner threatening a DCP for doing his duty. No wonder there was police revolt when Julio Ribeiro was Commissioner and as DGP he failed to end terrorism in Punjab.

On 23/8/2012 Arup Patnaik was promoted as DG (Maharashtra State Security Corporation). One channel said he was kicked upstairs. Some channels presented it as if he had been made a fall guy or scapegoat. If any politician had shouted at a DCP and threatened him with suspension for nabbing a rioter these channels would have raised a hue and cry. Here is a case of Commissioner threatening a DCP for doing his duty and the channels have not condemned Arup Patnaik. Satyapal Singh took over as Commissioner. As per one report Arup Patnaik had fallen out with R. R. Patil and had become friendly with Prithviraj Chavan. R. R. Patil said Arup Patnaik’s promotion was under process since 6/7/2012.

Satyapal Singh put Social Service Branch of Vasant Dhoble under Crime Branch as was the case before Arup Patnaik. That will gladden many people.

The question is whether the rioters knew there will be no retaliation on spot if they attacked and injured policemen, molested policewomen and engaged in arson and vandalism. Destroying public and private property happens during riots. It is not usual for rioters to target police.

Assam continues to be tense. Nidhi Razdan did not demand that Tarun Gogoi should say sorry because the Assam riots took place under his watch.

Many sites have been blocked for hate speech and provocative content including morphed pictures. Some sites did not have anything to do with riots. Journalists like Kanchan Gupta and Shiv Aroor found their sites blocked. Times of India site was blocked. However there was no action against hate speeches at Azad Maidan on 11/8/2012. There are arguments over what constitutes free speech and hate speech.

Till the time of writing police had arrested 48 persons including one who had snatched a rifle from a constable, and at least 22 persons including two who had vandalised Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial were yet to be arrested.

It is a shame if policepersons have to be mute spectators or victims when a riot takes place. Policewomen should have caught the molesters and thrashed them. What type of policewomen are they who get molested when they are in a group and their male colleagues are around them? If policepersons cannot defend themselves how can they defend others?

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