Ramlila lathi-charge: Police charge sheet is a joke

Police chief at the spot, not junior cops responsible for the fiasco

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | June 11, 2012



Making a complete mockery of its exercise to fix responsibility for the police highhandedness witnessed during the midnight operation against Baba Ramdev and his sleeping supporters at Ramlila grounds in New Delhi last year, Delhi Police has put the entire blame on six lowly functionaries – a sub-inspector, a head constable and four constables of Kamla Market police station.

In a charge sheet filed before a metropolitan magistrate, Delhi Police has indicted these junior cops for using force in their own capacity, exceeding their brief and “endangering life and personal safety” of the sleeping protesters while the order was just to use teargas shells.

It may be recalled that in the early hours of June 6, 2011, a large posse of cops swooped down on thousands of people gathered at Ramlila grounds to protest against black money and corruption. They were attacked with teargas and lathis and forcibly evicted from the ground. Scores were injured. One of them, 51-year-old Rajbala, later succumbed to her injuries. Baba Ramdev was detained, airlifted and then dumped in his ashram in Haridwar. In February, the supreme court expressed its unhappiness and ordered Delhi Police to investigate and fix responsibility for the fiasco.

Now, Delhi Police is claiming that all that went wrong that night was because six lowly cops exceeded their brief!

Revisit the operation to realise how ridiculous this claim is.

Giving an account of the midnight operation, newspapers gave details of it in the days that followed. One daily said the operation to evict Baba Ramdev began at 9 pm (on June 5) when DCPs of various districts collected at the venue. The Rapid Action Force reached the spot with a “heavy contingent” of Delhi Police around midnight. Delhi police commissioner BK Gupta reached the spot at 1.30 am. “We were given the instructions from the top. It was certain that he (Baba Ramdev) would be arrested,” a DCP was quoted as telling a national daily a day later. Seniors officials were quoted by newspapers as saying that it was a “political decision”.

Rapid developments took place under the cover of darkness. The venue was cordoned off, prohibitory orders were clamped, the gathering was declared illegal by ‘cancelling’ the permission to hold the camp and sleeping supporters were woken up, loaded into waiting vehicles and dumped far away from the venue. Several TV channels showed visuals of tear gas shells being lobbed and the agitators being lathi-charged.

Now to say all these happened because six junior cops decided to act on their own is stretching it too far. Several questions arise from this claim.

Since when are constables and head constables of Delhi Police acting on their own and lathi-charging people when their seniors, the DCPs, special commissioners and police commissioner himself, are present at the spot?

Who declared the assembly of those sleeping people illegal and ordered their eviction at midnight and why? Who ordered lobbying of teargas shells? Who ordered prohibitory orders at midnight? Who decided to arrest Baba Ramdev and airlift him to Haridwar? Who brought RAF and thousands of cops (one report put the figure at 5,000) on the sleeping protesters?

The ones who took these decisions are guilty of brazen and outrageous violation of human rights of people holding peaceful agitation (sleeping at the time of police action). The entire operation violated every norm of a civilised society and democratic governance.

The point of outrage was not the lathi-charge alone. The point of outrage was that somebody in the Delhi Police acting at the behest of its political bosses decided to evict a peaceful assembly of protesters in the dead of night. What and how things went wrong – that led to the lathi-charge – is a matter of operational failure. The murder of human rights was deliberated and planned in the corridors of power and not in the police barracks. If somebody needs to face legal heat for this, begin at the level of the police commissioner and above, definitely not sub-inspector and below.

To pick lowly constables and selectively blaming them for something they may or may not have done on their own is an attempt to shield the real culprits - their seniors who ordered and supervised the operation.

In fact, the one who is responsible for the fiasco is none other than the police chief, BK Gupta, who was present at the spot and presumably ordered and supervised the entire operation.

It is not only patently unfair and illogical to blame the juniors, such a shoddy charge sheet will only end up demoralising the constabulary.

No security force can be expected to behave responsibly when the top officials themselves shirk it, and worse, pass it on to others.

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