When the law and vengeance collide
Reactions to both the Hyderabad encounter and Unnao rape-murder should be a wake-up call to law enforcers where instant justice has become infinitely more preferable than the judicial process
The post I wrote on my Facebook wall the morning the four Hyderabad rapists were killed in a police encounter read: 'Writing a thoughtful and far-reaching observation (on the cons of the incident) would mean getting bashed up at the hands of euphoric netizens'. Like-minded people shared my views. But many felt that the police were right in taking the law into their hands for delivering instant justice. I couldn't gather the courage to find the words to respond.
The reactions to the Hyderabad encounter were mixed — emotional and constitutional. The latter were in a minority. The minority's view shrunk further when the sad news of the Unnao rape survivor's heinous murder, that took place a full public view, appeared in the media. The Hyderabad vet was raped and burnt. The Unnao girl was raped and maimed because she dared to approach the law enforcers against a powerful rapist politician her father's age. She was also burnt to death because of her steely resolve to get the rapist punished by the law.
In both cases, the police are at the centre of the controversy. In Hyderabad, the law enforcement agency followed a pattern to appease popular sentiment that called for a quick, Taliban-like justice. The Unnao police (and the entire Uttar Pradesh law and order machinery) obstructed the delivery of justice. They are accused of being hand-in-glove with the accused in getting the victim killed. They are alleged to have assisted the people who didn't want a badly brutalised girl to pursue the court cases. The police protection was missing when the attempt to run her over was made, and then, when she was burnt on the road, the police went missing instead of following court orders to protect her.
A study of contrasts
These are two contrasting tales of how political bosses and the police they control acted differently. In both cases, the respective police departments wouldn't have acted the way they did without political influence. The Hyderabad police took the law into their hands and in the other, the men in khaki allowed the bahubalis to forever silence the victim who was also a main witness. The Hyderabad force received bouquets and their UP counterparts, brickbats.
And, there is a reason for interlinking these incidents that happened down south and up north. People rejoiced after justice came so promptly in Hyderabad because of inordinate delays in the functioning of our judicial system and also inept policing that includes gathering of evidence and putting them together for the court's consideration. Now, the majority of people want the same treatment to be given to rapists and killers of Unnao ki beti. If pumping bullets isn't possible, then they want the judiciary to take control and fasttrack itself to hang the culprits without any further delay.
Apparently, the two cases are all about the witnesses. Experts say the Hyderabad case was a big challenge for the local police even after laying their hands on the accused who they strongly believed were involved in the rape. Was it very difficult for the police to turn that belief into nailing the real perpetrators? Were the police under political pressure to end the issue like a protagonist in a Bollywood revenge drama so that the cops' and government's sagging image was given a facelift? Likewise, did the UP police act at the behest of politicians who were involved in the rape and those who wanted the accused protected?
If true, then those of a view that the law should have taken its course have no say in our diverse cohabitation. The system that works for the majority when a Hyderabad happens, stinks when an Unnao takes place. The same majority of people have now taken to the streets across the country. A Nirbhaya-like movement is building up in the cities, towns and cyber space. Politicians are trading charges; the smarter among them are deriving political mileage and the dumb are losing it big-time.
While the politicians and their stooges in the police and administration play their games, let us be reminded that it is us, the citizens, who suffer in many ways, whatever the shenanigans of the controllers of the system deliver at the end. Outrage is momentary. Suffering is permanent.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore
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