The Delhi Police imposed severe traffic restrictions in the Connaught Place area, in Bengaluru massive deployment was planned for Brigade Road and reports from Mumbai, Agra, Pune ~ indeed from most towns and cities ~ pointed to New Year’s Eve having become a major law-and-order headache. It is more than the congregation of large crowds that cause the worry but the shameful brand of rowdiness that has come to be accepted as fun and festivity. And make no mistake about it, the poor behaviour is not linked only to “western” celebrations such as Valentine’s Day on December 31 ~ as politicians conveniently contend. Eve-teasing and molestation of women are no less rampant during Holi. Social scientists may come up with articulate analyses, deep down lies the unpalatable truth that the law and order machinery has crumbled, respect for decent conduct has evaporated, and the union home ministry in North Block remains too busy playing politics to do the basic duty of any government: protecting the life and property of the nation. The morrow’s newspapers will inform us if our “Happy New Year” wish came true ~ if not the home ministry will remind us that law and order is a state subject, Mr Rajnath Singh’s favourite escape route.
It is true that no direct political link can be established between drunken hooliganism and political outfits, but can the cops retain basic control when they are encouraged to let cow vigilantes run wild ~ even kill a police officer fully aware their neta will protect them? When a member of the security forces is “martyred” fighting militants in Kashmir there is a much simulated anguish, televised funeral ceremony et al. There was little of that in Bulandshahr: instead a local politician had the gall so ask why such a fuss was being made when nobody protested the killing of cows. The silence of the BJP leadership completed the outrage. And so we have had to learn with political protestors burning buses, stoning trains, blocking traffic etc ~ all this 70 years after we “won” freedom. Industrial unrest, student agitations and so on are incomplete without violence.
The degree of police counter-violence is politically determined. Thus far the violence in Parliament has been more verbal than physical ~ but how much longer? We are entrapped in a vicious cycle of goondagardi. So why complain if girls are molested on New Year’s Eve ~ at least they were not stripped or raped, they asked for trouble would be the conventional wisdom of North Block. More than commissioning a fresh calendar, the countdown to a new government should generate new hopes. Sadly what portends is ominous. A polarised, viciously divided electorate cannot yield a peaceful, harmonious society. A pointer could be provided by the time this edition rolls from the press.