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Patnaik transfer: Implication on police force

Friday August 24, 2012 06:12:42 PM, Aleem Faizee,

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Police say they prevented 'holocaust' in Mumbai

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 his credit. 


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.








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