In a civilised world there are systems in place for running the state with active participation of the civil society. For a successful democracy both sides of the balance have to be equal.
A conflict arises when the delicate balance is disturbed either by an oppressive state or a subverted civil society, which starts challenging State’s law and order mechanism to the brink of anarchy. The law enforcers must act responsibly to ensure that both respect each other.
A civil society is an arena, outside the family, state, and the market where people associate to advance common interests. Any State cannot be successful unless it allows mobility of the civil society. Similarly, any civil society cannot survive without the protection of the State. They must co-exist.
A State cannot be oppressive and civil society cannot and should not be armed or resorting to violent means, especially due to subversion by anti-State actors. The civil society is expected to use peaceful means for showing dissent or disagreement on various issues such as communalism, casteism, ethnicity, women, farms laws, labour laws, economic injustice and environmental degradation.
State actors are elected through a democratic process and are therefore powerful, while civil society activists are self-proclaimed but in course of time assume leadership positions. Both are expected to perform their duties honestly.
The law enforcers are the face of the State, the first interface between people and the State for getting justice. They have a greater responsibility on their shoulders to ensure that State is not seen to be either seen as weak nor oppressive.
Women protest in Delhi (Courtesy: Meharban)
Let’s examine two recent instances. First- recently inside a Delhi court room observing that police did their job with utmost integrity, a sessions judge pulled up Mehmood Pracha, a lawyer who argued that Muslim community was targeted in north east Delhi riots.
The additional sessions judge noted that the lawyer’s allegations were noted with immense disgust, repugnance and strong disapproval.
The judge said it was lawyer himself who was “painting the entire Delhi Police with a communal brush by saying that the criminal cases related to the riots have been fastened upon members of the Muslim community alone.’’ It is logical to agree with the judge that an entire police force cannot be communal.
There are well-meaning, highly capable and intelligent officers in police and Government, who have been entrusted with doing justice to people.
Likewise, all politicians irrespective of which political party they belong to cannot have the same temperament. After all they are all humans.
In the particular case, however the higher judiciary will sooner or later decide whether police were right or the contention of the lawyer doing the advocacy was true.
But as a general rule lower judiciary doesn’t have reasons to disbelief law enforcers and should not even be doing so, until there are tell-tale signs that the police acted in a biased manner.
The logic behind this assumption is that police are considered to be an independent “third party” between two disputing parties and are expected to give an independent assessment.
So, the approach of a law enforcing officer is so crucial that it could either make or break people’s lives. It is this collective approach of the law enforcers towards people, which makes the perception of a nation.
They are expected to follow the law of the land and cannot be biased towards either majority or minority population of the country.
Students protest in Delhi (Courtesy: Meharban)
Now let’s examine another recent development. Jharkhand Police arrested Prashant Bose alias Kishanda, who is in his late 70s and is CPI (Maoist) central committee member.
He is considered to be a think tank of Maoist activities and People’s War Group. According to the police Bose joined a labour organisation that was affiliated to the Naxals. He was arrested in 1974 and following his release in 1978, he went on to co-found the MCCI along with Kanai Chatterjee.
Bose started to organise protests against Zamindars in Giridih, Dhabad, Bokaro and Hazaribagh. During this period, he fought against both police and upper caste zamindar militias against “injustices.”
He had been active in these violent for 45 years of his life and trained most of the active leaders of the banned organisation. The leaders he trained must have been responsible for the killings of hundreds of policemen.
According to a senior police official of the state Bose is mentally far more alert than anyone. “Go near him, and he will convert you into a Naxal,” these were the officer’s words.
As far as Bose’s commitment for getting justice for the powerless is concerned it is commendable. But what is not acceptable is the fact of his condoning and involvement in violence for carrying out subversive activities.
Recently National Security Advisor Ajit Doval made a very interesting statement, which has attracted much attention. His statement has been criticised by the so-called defenders of civil rights, who have perhaps assumed he was targeting the civil society. In all fairness what he perhaps meant was that State and civil society should co-exist but the latter’s subversion is more dangerous than a war for a nation.
Reminding a new batch of IPS probationers about their responsibility, he said: “Safety and security is your responsibility. The people are most important. The new frontier of war-what we call fourth-generation warfare- is civil society.
But it is the civil society that can be subverted, that can be suborned, that can be a divided idea, that can manipulate to hurt the interest of a nation.
And you are there to see that they stand fully protected. The service of the people is the greatest service not only from the point of view of our nation-building but also from the point of view of national security.”
It appears the so-called civil society defenders missed out on the nuances. Doval said no nation can be built where rule of law has failed, where people cannot feel safe and secure and where law enforcers are weak, corrupt and partisan. He also said quintessence of democracy does not lie in the ballot box. It lies in the laws made by the people who are elected through those ballot boxes. You are the enforcers of laws. Laws are not as good as they are made. Laws are as good as they are implemented.
Doval was speaking about the people and not about politics. It should not be forgotten that we have the legacy of the colonial past, where police were always seen with suspicion and subjugation was a norm of the day.
The above mentioned two instances show us that we have not been able to come out of the colonial legacy and the British system we still follow. A common man sees police with suspicion and Kishanda has been fighting for 45 years against subjugation of the powerless but with a subversive mindset.
While law enforcers have been the victim of colonial legacy, they have to play a very important role and should make an assessment on case-to- case basis.
The subversion of the civil society involves nefarious activities of anti-India powers and socio-political differences, which needs to be addressed as a nation. Kishanda has been doing what he does for last 45 years. He has got the space to carry out his activities for more than four decades.
The civil society is today’s world is quite powerful, especially armed with fast communication, they could make or break a country, so there is a need to act responsibly. Also, the deep thinking which went into expression of peaceful and meaningful dissent of Sunderlal Bahuguna and Mahatma Gandhi are history. In today’s age of social media allegations are levelled one moment and verdict is pronounced instantaneously.
The State and people will have to introspect deeply why the civil society is being allowed to be subverted almost 75 years after its Independence. Civil society steps in when there is injustice.
Indian Constitution guarantees equal rights for its citizens and law enforcers must act dispassionately to ensure that people have their rights. They have both moral and legal responsibility to do so.