Op-Ed: Growing Saffronisation of Police is Scary

As the circumstances leading to the death of Rakbar Khan, who was lynched by a ‘gau rakshak’ mob in Alwar in Rajasthan on Saturday night on suspicion of illegally carrying cattle, come to the fore, it is becoming increasingly clear that his life could have been saved had the cops been a little less callous and done their duty.

That the men from the Ramgarh police station thought it was more important to take the cows – not injured, mind you – to a goshala than rushing a profusely bleeding Rakbar to the hospital tells as much about the utter insensitivity of the police in general as about the growing saffronisation of Rajasthan police under the current dispensation. It looks suspiciously like the cops wanted to make sure Rakbar does not survive the attack. How else does one explain the fact that they took a ‘tea break’ on the way while taking the victim to the hospital? And the fact that it took them three hours to reach the Ramgarh hospital, a distance of just six kms, after reaching the place where the attack took place?

After nationwide outrage over the latest incident of mob lynching, the seventh in Rajasthan since the lynching of Pehlu Khan in Alwar in April last year, there appears to be a concerted effort by the police and the Rajasthan government to give the case a different spin, notwithstanding the high level probe ordered into the incident. Rajasthan Home minister Gulab Singh Kataria says the evidence collected so far points to ‘custodial death’! Local BJP MLA Gyandev Ahuja, whose name was invoked by the attackers while lynching Rakbar, has also sought to peddle this theory. The political dispensation may well be trying to shift the blame to the police to save its own skin, but the police is in the dock in either case. If the mob lynched Rakbar, it was the duty of the cops to take him to the hospital at the earliest and take action against the attackers as per the law. But they did neither. If it was a case of custodial death as alleged by the BJP leaders, it was an even more reprehensible act on the part of the police and must be dealt with firmly.

The glaring discrepancies in the two versions of the sequence of events leading to Rakbar’s death presented by Naval Kishore Sharma, a VHP activist, and Shekhawat Khan, Rakbar’s neighbor, suggest that there is an elaborate exercise on to derail the investigation and obfuscate the issue. Sharma says there was not a ‘scratch’ on Rakbar’s body and he was in ‘absolute proper condition’ while Shekhawat, who washed his body before its burial, did not find ‘one body part’ that wasn’t bleeding and one bone that had not been broken. One doesn’t have to be a Sherlock Homes to find out who is lying. If, as Sharma says, Rakbar was absolutely fine, how come he was ‘brought dead’ when he reached the hospital? The police must also explain why they asked Sharma, a VHP leader and a known rabble rouser, to accompany them while taking the cows to the goshala.

The growing incidents of mob lynching, invariably targeting Muslims and Dalits, across the country certainly raise apprehensions of the end of India as we know it. But what is scarier is the growing saffronisation of the police in states ruled by the BJP. Of course, there is nothing new in the police acting – or refusing to act – as per the diktats of the party in power. One just has to recall two of the most ghastly incidents of mob fury in the history of independent India – the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 and of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 – to prove that police in our country have generally tended to share the worst of the ruling dispensation’s biases, prejudices and worldview or, at the very least, to refuse to stand up to them. But both of them were extraordinary events triggered by extraordinary happenings – the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 and the burning alive of 59 kar sevaks in 2002. When the cops refuse to act as per the law in everyday matters – and lynching, whether we accept it or not, is a ‘routine’ matter now – to curry favour with the rulers or due to fear of incurring their wrath, it is time to wonder if the end of the Rule of Law is round the corner.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same).