The attempt to stop Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi from visiting to Hatharas by the Uttar Pradesh government might have succeeded when they did not allow the convoy to move ahead of Greater Noida and detained both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi who have been taken to Buddha circuit, a world class facility made by Ms Mayawati when she was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
One does not understand why BJP says that dont ‘politicise’ the issue when BJP enjoyed the maximum politicisation of Nirbhaya case and when the party did everything to protect Kuldeep Singh Sengar. If there was no politics, people’s issues would not be raised and nobody would visit any one. It is natural for the political parties to visit such cases and assure the family of the victims that they are with them. It is important too otherwise who will raise people’s issues.
Uttar Pradesh police and administration might have become happier that they stopped Rahul Gandhi from visiting but the fact is Rahul Gandhi scored a much bigger political victory at the moment with his march to Hatharas. He also might have known that the administration will not allow him to visit and we all know these tricks of the ruling parties that they dont want to give their opponent any opportunity to score a political point but if you see the entire event and how it unfolded today then it is a fact that the issue is hot and has become international in the last few days and is not going to die down so soon. Second, it has definitely given strength to local Congress workers who might have been feeling why party leaders are not taking up the street and the third, it brought diverse group of Congress leaders together. The tempers were high and not everything was drama but people were genuinely seeking question.
There is no doubt that the current regime in Uttar Pradesh is becoming highly unpopular for its arrogance. It seek answer through intimidation and police action which is condemnable. Political leaders must understand that they were opposition leaders once upon a time and can again become so and hence for them to keep certain protocols in office so that when they become leaders in opposition they dont face the same.
The police behaviour with Rahul and Priyanka was worst. He was physically pushed and shoved. He fell too on the ground and a senior minister of BJP was suggesting that it was all drama. We must understand that if police are allowed to go unaccountable than that would be a bigger problem for the law and order. We know police are under tremendous strain and dont really know how to manage the things because the bosses just give order to them. They all are workers with family and hence they resort to lathis on innocent. Some time in the heat of argument they can misbehave with the leaders but it is normal and police need to be educated. Unless, Netas take this project on a bigger way to make police accountable and humanises them, they will always be more risk to rule of law.
Today’s protest has proved that people are waiting for the leaders to raise the public issue. It is over 9 months and governments too are not keen that the epidemic act goes and political activities are allowed but with farmers taking to the street and now the common people, it look the resentment against the government is growing. For the government, it is important to listen to the people and not to resort to highhandedness and counter argument. The response to Hatharas is not that the IT cell get some new cases and bring new villain. Ultimately, there is a violence and none is suggesting that this violence against Dalits or women is a BJP making or has just emerged but what is important that the rule of law must prevail and administration must be seen working with deep honesty and without any caste or political prejudices.
The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh is definitely not good and people have a right to question the government’s in action. It is time, Uttar Pradesh focus on making the police force more professional and not making them the militia of the ruling party. A professional police force on the lines of Scotland yard would be a great boon for all of us. Police to be used to stop opposition from visiting the victims of a violence or curtail protests or crush the dissent will never be a good idea. Political protests are part of our lives. The Hindutva forces launched their biggest political protest for the Ram Mandir and we all know nothing of their protest was constitutional. Most of the time they violated law and yet swear by the constitution whenever there was a need.
Today’s protests have indicated that political protests will grow in Uttar Pradesh. Samajwadi Party, BSP and Congress will fight among themselves for the opposition space but it is equally important for these three parties to make space for a negotiations which might emerge after the poll. We hope the parties will work together in the greater interest of democracy. A democratised and secular Uttar Pradesh upholding the social justice values will be the biggest asset for the country. Are our opposition parties ready for coming together ?
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity