There’s more to Dhule police’s inefficient handling of the riots than their supposed communal bias. Its backdrop is economic, as most such incidents tend to be.
Experts and fact-finders have mooted several happy ideas to assuage the hurt and bring the city back on track. One is that for confidence-building exercises among the youth to restore their faith in the police. Now, the police can certainly do that. But the issues in Dhule go far deeper and are more complex than they appear. It’s a far cry from a black-and-white Hindu-Muslim sparring.
Dhule is actually more or less a reflection of what’s happening in many parts of the state. This charming town seems to be slowly morphing into a mafia den. Over the past two decades, Dhule, known for its scrap-dealing business, has been slipping into a nefarious activities centre, with all kinds of illegal businesses from fuel adulteration, spurious liquor and gambling to counterfeit consumer goods.
The businesses have created a clique of powerful ganglords that is assiduously wooed by politicians for electoral gains. On the one hand, the economic slide creates its own ripples of conflict and tensions and, on the other, it has been steadily acquiring a criminal profile.
Apart from three national highways (NH3, NH6 and NH211) crossing the district, Dhule also shares the state border with Gujarat on its south-west and Madhya Pradesh on its north-east. Illicit activities thrive on the highways while petty crime is common near its interstate borders. Some spots are famous as adulteration hotspots. Tankers come there to offload fuel and tank up with spurious fuel for their onward journey.
All the activities – illegal and criminal — take place under political patronage and under the very eyes and nose of the police who have probably decided that if they cannot beat them they should join them. In fact, some of the cops are such an integral part of the circuit that any attempt to lick them into shape attracts not just resistance but hostility from the whole lot of them.
Though about 15 per cent of Dhule’s resident population is Muslim, thousands more from the north work in the 12,000-odd powerlooms. In Dhule city, 16 out of 55 corporators are Muslims but are said to not enjoy the confidence of their community.
Coming in the wake of a few inflammatory speeches by fundamentalists, the riots festered in an atmosphere of resentment and suspicion. A demoralised and corrupt police handled it in its own way. From all accounts, it appears as if the police had no clarity at first on what to do, and were at the receiving end of extreme aggression for over an hour. Once their superiors arrived on the scene and ordered a crackdown, they hit hard and without care.
There is a complicated web of facts and factors operating out there which can be sorted out only and only with political will. And given the current regime’s lack of love for governance, there is a bit in the distance.