Unbelievable! Shocking !! It was my
immediate reaction to the news of Mumbai top cop Arup Patnaik's
transfer. I could not believe a government which claimed to be
headed by secular parties succumbing to the communal forces in
such a manner. Though the government says it has promoted Patnaik,
terming the move a routine practice, but it is hard to believe
such a claim.
Next day's newspapers talked about
the political implications of the decision.
Some political analysts and leaders, including Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC)
president Manikrao Thakre, if some reports are to be believed, are
of the view that the decision would upset the minority vote bank -
a customary point of view expressed whenever anything that relates
to the Muslim community is debated.
Interestingly, some of them,
including MPCC chief Thakre, do not seem to be against the
decision. They are of the view that the state government should have taken this
decision after few months as the decision taken in such a haste
could help the communal forces especially Raj Thackeray's
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Ironically, except for the political
impact of the decision, nobody is ready to discuss that there is
every possibility of some very dangerous implications
the decision could have in the longer run. To understand this, we
need to analyze what Additional Police Commissioner, Mumbai
Krishna Prasad had said in Patnaik's defence after he was
criticised for 'mishandling' the Mumbai situation.
Prasad said that as the violence spread, and though some policemen
were seriously injured, at least four in the groin, and some
policewomen were virtually molested by the mobs, police exercised
extreme restraint. "Our men had become equally aggressive and
wanted to retaliate, but we stopped them. Despite the tense
situation, we did not become trigger-happy. Otherwise, there would
have been a holocaust," he insisted.
Arup Patnaik himself said: “As
Mumbai Police Commissioner, all police personnel are my family.
While I am anguished that there were attacks on them, the fingers
of some policemen were on their triggers and I had to ensure that
they did not fire. The situation would have gone out of hand if
they had fired. The situation had to be handled."
Others including former top cop
Julio Ribeiro and B Raman have also appreciated the way the Police
exercised restraint and controlled the situation within one hour.
The communal forces led by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) are not satisfied. While MNS
leader Raj Thackeray sees hands of 'illegal Bangladeshi migrants'
behind the Azad Maidan violence, Munde is unhappy with the police
for exercising restraint.
Why they are unhappy? They would
have been happy only when dozens of Muslims had died in police
firing as happened about two decades ago during the protest
against The Satanic Verses? They would have been satisfied when
there was a 'holocaust of Muslims' on Mumbai streets, in the words
of ACP Prasad?
Ironically, the communal forces are
objecting to police handling despite having own record of violent
protests including attacks on police and media when police did not
resort to even lathi charge. As a Mumbai based journalist Jyoti
Punwani pointed out: "Why has this flurry of activity not been
seen on all the other occasions that mobs have “burnt Mumbai”?
While this may be the first time that the police has been
targeted, it’s not the first time the media or BEST buses or cars
have been vandalised."
"Police failure to anticipate and prevent Saturday’s violence is
indeed blameworthy. But what’s new? When the Mumbai police has had
indications of Sena-led violence, has it ever tried to prevent it?
Forget the 1992-93 riots. In December 2010, the Pune police,
apprehending violence at a protest called by the Sena, tapped Sena
leaders’ phones and heard Milind Narvekar, Uddhav Thackeray’s PA,
instruct Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe (a former Socialist) to gather a
mob, burn buses and inform TV channels. Everything went according
to plan; 54 buses were burnt. Pune’s Police Commissioner repeated
the Maharashtra police’s time-honoured motto: “Preventive arrests
would have aggravated the situation” and R.R. Patil supported her,
saying the police’s priority was to “safeguard law and order and
protect the public", she went on to write.
However, unlike Pune's incident
mentioned above, RR Patil, after initial appreciation, did not came in support of the police
after the Azad Maidan incident. Instead, he and his government were
seemingly on the back-foot since the day one. Does it mean the state government
endorse the views expressed by the communal forces? Does it mean
they were also unhappy that a 'massacre' of Muslim not happened
after the violence erupted?
If not, then why the government shunted Patnaik from his post in such a
haste and non-ceremonial
manner? Did the government think over the implication the decision
would have on the police force? Or it really wanted to tell its police
force that you should take strict possible action against Muslims
only then your posts are safe? Otherwise you would be punished
like Patnaik? No matter if he has a remarkable service record to
Hope this is not true. But after
reading what a netizen from Dallas (US), in his comments posted on
a website wrote, I am really worried about the government's
intention: "From security expert B Raman to super cop Julio Ribeiro, everyone praised Patnaik’s handling of the explosive
situation at Azad Maidan on August 11. What more endorsement did
the Maharashtra government need? Those of us who have seen
communal violence in the city since the 80s, have rarely seen a
senior policeman actually restrain his men in the face of dire
provocation from a group of hoodlums belonging to a community they
aren’t exactly fond of.
"A police commissioner who doesn’t “teach Muslims a lesson” is
persona non grata for the entire establishment, including the
(non-Urdu) media. Only two Muslims dead when they attack cops? The
man has to go. Home Ministers, however, can continue patronising
the most rabid Muslims", he wrote.