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Law and disorder, who’s the police for?
Law and disorder, who’s the police for?
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Law and disorder, who’s the police for?
The Tribune
2018-01-12 03:51:00
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Law and disorderwho’s the police for? The common man can hardly hope for any justice.
Nirmal Sandhu

A 24-year-old international karate player, Kuldeep Kaur, has committed suicide to protest police inaction and political patronage of her tormentors trying to grab her family land. Her father, paralysed for years, and her mother, a cancer patient, now with legs broken in a recent criminal assault, could not put up a fight. Kuldeep and her mother were attacked four months ago and the police registered an FIR but did nothing thereafter, reportedly at the instance of a Congress minister. The police rather lodged a case against the young woman to force a compromise. This is what her brother, Satwant Singh, a serving Army man, has told media and there is no reason to disbelieve him. Coming from a background such as this, it is not difficult to imagine the odds she faced in her rise to the international level in sports.
In a more civilised society Kuldeep Kaur would have been a role model for youth.
A young, promising life has been snuffed out by a widely prevalent criminal-police-politician nexus, which in recent years has exposed ordinary people to threats of crime, gangsters and drugs. Her village, Gujjarpura in the Fatehgarh Churian Assembly constituency, is not a lone witness to a politician-sponsored misuse of the justice system.
One thing that has not changed in Punjab with the change of regime is the selective enforcement of law. Violations of the law and cover-ups have continued as before. Elsewhere a Lalu Prasad, a Jayalalithaa or a Chautala may land in jail, in Punjab politicians don’t get caught. Even if a case is registered, it drags on until a regime change happens and the Vigilance then discovers that the person booked had actually done no wrong. What has changed after March 2017 is that Congressmen have replaced Akalis in the loot of land and mines and targeting of political opponents.
No one was therefore surprised at the Amarinder Singh government’s selective response in the Kuldeep Kaur case, limited to criminals and policemen, letting the politician walk away. The constitution of an SIT means the minister would remain beyond questioning.
After the Bikram Singh Majithia and Rana Gurjit Singh episodes, Capt Amarinder Singh has failed the Tripat Bajwa test. His role in the Majithia bailout is known. He has brushed aside 40 Congress MLAs’ demand for action. Rana Gurjit’s business affairs needed a CBI or police probe to trace the money trail in the mining scam. A judicial inquiry, even if genuine, cannot do the police job.
Though the Akali Dal has sought the registration of a case of abetment to suicide against the minister, Tripat Bajwa is unlikely to face the consequences of playing a part in the police humiliation of a self-respecting young woman and driving her to suicide, especially when the Chief Minister has taken up the job of a non-existent Lokpal in deciding who is guilty. He is frequently handing out clean chits to loyalists, both in his party and in Opposition.
Recently he assumed the role of Chief Justice to exonerate a high court judge. In an unusual and unprecedented move, his government passed an Assembly resolution defending a suspected case of bribery in the judiciary without the benefit of an inquiry. The practised style of governance raises questions. Given this expansion of his responsibilities, he may well need a separate ministry for cover-ups.
Forcibly occupying land of the weak and the vulnerable is a recurring phenomenon in Punjab which gained momentum after the Badals introduced the halqa-in-charge system. A Tribune report recently indicated that panchayat land worth Rs 2,000 crore is in possession of a politician-sponsored mafia across the state.
Also prevalent is the practice of implicating rivals in false cases which the Justice Mehtab Singh Gill Commission has officially recognised and documented. It has received a large number of complaints of police highhandedness and recommended cancellation of 177 FIRs. Cases are registered and withdrawn, mostly at the police-politician level, under the threat of a counter FIR against the victim.
Courts being rendered ineffective by a politician-controlled prosecution is another known Punjab-specific phenomenon. The Badals were not honourably discharged in the disproportionate assets case but were acquitted since witnesses turned hostile and the Vigilance backtracked. The lower court verdict was not challenged. Investing in insurance against any future action when out of power, the Badals allowed the Vigilance to withdraw a serious case of corruption against Capt Amarinder Singh, though the court has put its foot down.
Capt Amarinder Singh does not seem to know what good his government has done. In a self-congratulatory Tribune article on January 1, he forgot to mention the most notable —and, perhaps the only — achievement of his government, which is abolition of the halqa-in-charge system. To his credit, he has restored some semblance of the rule of law in a state subjected to a 10-year reign of near lawlessness.
The most notable failure of his government in 10 months is also on the law and order front — the absence of fear of law in Congressmen. Capt Amarinder Singh has lost that fire in the belly to take on the corrupt and the wrongdoer that he had in the first two years of his first term as Chief Minister. He is pursuing politics and running the state affairs the Badal way.
A former judge of the high court has established that the police committed excesses and framed innocent citizens, including Congressmen, during Akali-BJP rule but the arm of the law has not reached any politician, leave aside the former Home Minister and the Chief Minister who ran the state as a family fiefdom.
Very condescendingly, the Punjab CM has announced that he will not engage in ‘vendetta politics’, investing this much used or abused expression with a new meaning, that is, inaction against political wrongdoers. The Captain has put the onus of providing evidence against a politician — in the ruling party or in Opposition — on the person(s) levelling the charge.
There are well-meaning Congressmen who have Punjab’s larger interest in mind. It is in their interest and also in the interest of those who are in politics purely to enjoy the spoils of office to put pressure on the CM to ease out those bringing a bad name to governance. Their chances for success for another consecutive term or in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would evaporate if they continue to choose expediency over good governance. Win or lose, the Captain has his retirement plans ready; it is they who have their political future to work on.

nirmalssandhu@gmail.com

 

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