The suspension of Thane district’s Superintendent of Rural Police Ravindra Sengaonkar and Senior Police Inspector of Palghar Srikant Pingle for arresting two girls over an innocuous Facebook comment has stirred up a hornet’s nest, with peeved police officers across the state complaining that they too are victims of the system, who often have to submit to political pressure and are later scapegoated.
“The police arrested the two girls and not the Sainiks who were throwing tantrums outside the police station as they were under pressure from the Sena. There were clear instructions from the department not to arrest any Sainiks, as the department wanted to ensure that their sentiments were not hurt. Since the police could not act against the Sena, in haste they ended up taking unnecessary action against two girls,” said a police officer, who didn’t wish to be identified.
Another officer pointed out that a similar situation arose during the Azad Maidan riot in August this year, with the cops being given orders not to take any action against rioters. “When Arup Patnaik became the police commissioner, he was seen as a man of action. During the riot, even when constables were being molested and thrashed, Patnaik issued orders to them to refrain from action. Rather, the abused one of his DCPs for arresting one person,” said the officer. “Political leaders are continuously dictating terms to the force. And if something goes wrong, they leave the police to face the music,” said the police officer.
Retired ACP Shamsher Khan Pathan added that police officers need to exercise their discretion in such situations. He said, “The police officer has to live with political pressure in day-to-day life. In such a scenario, the girls shouldn’t have been arrested at night. Even if they were under pressure, the officers could have made the girls sit in the police station instead of arresting them. In this way, the girls would have remained in safe custody.”
Officials in the police department admitted that the arrests were a mistake, but said that they had been made to maintain law and order, as there were strict orders from higher-ups after Bal Thackeray’s death that anybody found creating unnecessary problems should be strictly dealt with.
Blast from the past
Back in 1997, a mob of Dalits was allegedly rioting at Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar following the desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue. Having received orders from his superiors to tackle the situation, SRPF officer Manohar Kadam ordered his subordinates to open fire at the mob.
Ten people died in the firing, and the incident raised a huge hue and cry. A committee headed by Justice S D Gundewar indicted Kadam for indiscriminate and needless firing. Kadam however, defended his actions, saying that he had ordered the firing because the mob was about set fire to a gas tanker.