Obviously, the beastly gang rape of the 23-year-old girl has deeply enraged the public opinion. The law enforcement machinery that includes the police and judiciary has failed to protect the life and honour of the common citizen, not only in the national capital but in the entire country.
The Delhi Police commissioner may claim to have ‘solved a blind case and succeeded in apprehending the criminals in less than 24 hours’ — by the way, how could this gang rape be described as a blind case when the friend of the girl, himself a victim of the brutality, is the main witness whose active collaboration helped the police to crack the case — but his words will pass the test of scrutiny only if he is able to convince people that out of the more than 600 rape cases registered in Delhi this year, perpetrators in a majority of the cases have been punished appropriately.
The Union home secretary, instead of patting an erring police officer, should have asked the police, as reported by DNA in its Monday’s edition, why “some policemen failed to register a case and act on the complaint of a carpenter who had been robbed by the rapists before they picked up the woman”. As this paper has rightly assumed that “had the police acted and given chase, the gang rape could have been prevented”. In any other more responsible society, read civilised, the head of the police force would have been certainly sent packing home for such a grievous lapse.
Yet, see how the same police force, after having failed to infuse a sense of security in the society, is ever ready to brutalise the aggrieved masses even at the hint of a protest. The violent face of the state reveals its most lethal capacities only to crush the genuine dissent as if the people protesting the grave injustices are not its citizens but enemies descended from a foreign land.
In order to maintain order, the state’s complete power to stop violence is indeed unchallengeable. And people agitating over grievances or for that matter incapacitated by a deep sense of injustice can never be allowed to resort to any kind of violence as that will only lead to anarchy in the society.
Yet it is usually said that dissent is the essence of democracy and people have an inherent right to peaceful assembly. If prohibitory orders are placed, people are not allowed to assemble, cane-charged and showered with teargas shells, how can distressed people exercise their democratic right to protest, albeit nonviolently?
The rulers, after having lost all the capacity to tolerate any type of dissent, have developed an array of ready-made excuses to justify the unleashing of brutal violence on the people. Until Saturday evening people who gathered in and around the India Gate were by and large protesting peacefully, and still the government decided to disperse the generally peaceful assembly of the people with brutal force. Had the government been even a little bit respectful towards the right of the people to protest peacefully, it could have easily separated the few disgruntled elements within the crowd keen to provoke violence.
Maintaining law and order was a ready-made excuse to crush a slowly building uprising. The demands of instant justice — hanging, castration or even public stoning of the accused — are all rooted in a deep frustration that the police and judiciary have failed to deliver justice; hardly any criminal gets properly punished nowadays.
The intensity of the public anger is a clear manifestation of people’s vote of no-confidence in their rulers. It took the prime minister almost a week to break his silence. Since the rulers are unable to satisfy the anxiety of the masses, only recourse left with them is a crackdown on the people.
The violent scenes at the India Gate on Sunday evening: the defiance of young girls; the arson; the teargas shells; the water cannons and the wailing sirens of ambulances all resembled with the scenes of the 2010 Kashmir unrest. Mercifully, the only difference was that the police did not fire at the protesters. The mass protests in Kashmir were then described by the government as ‘agitational terrorism’ inspired by the ISI.
When trust breaks down, people are bound to hit the streets. What happened in Delhi last week is a signal that patience of the people is finally sapping; the sooner the rulers are able to read the writing on the wall, the better it will be for the cause of peace.