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Violent protesters should pay for their misdeeds

June 8, 2007
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Violent protests are becoming far too common in India. Its not as if protests turn violent, but that they start violently. People simply go out with sticks and stones with the intention of destroying public property – attacking trains and blocking roads. They feel this is the only way to get the attention of the government.

However, one of the reasons why this happens is that criminals organise the protests or are part and parcel of the crowd causing the riot. These goondas (ruffians) do not represent the people, only themselves. They very often lack idealogy and are there to have some fun. Political parties find them a convenient tool as they have no qualms about burning and looting. And these people get away with their unlawful acts more often than not, as the political party offers them protection.

If we are not careful this kind of anti-social behavior will become the accepted way of registering protests. Everytime these criminals come out on the streets, decent people are forced to run for cover because they know that the buses and trains they travel in will be attacked and burnt. The chances of their getting hurt are high even though these goons do not usually intend to kill.

The fact that criminals are involved in such riots was proved by the recent arrest of the President of the Hindu Rashtra Sena Dhananjay Jairam Desai for his alleged role in the attack on the Star TV office. Desai is a habitual offender, and has several cases of chain snatching, robbery, and rioting registered against him in Mumbai, Thane and Pune. And why did this petty criminal incite a group of youths to particular attack the Star TV office? Because the channel covered the news of a Hindu girl running away from home to marry a Muslim! Apparently Desai felt that this ‘trend’ had to be halted!! Its so ridiculous as to be laughable.

What needs to be stopped is the trend of goons spilling out out into the streets and destroying public and private property and putting the lives of ordinary people in danger. They do it at their own whim or at the whim of some political party who finds them convenient scapegoats.

Unfortunately ordinary people who see this tamasha are fooled into thinking that it is the common people who are doing it, and they start to wonder if they too should be out there protesting. But the fact is that the rioters are a different breed altogether and rarely do they represent the feelings of the common people. That is what we need to remember.

When a public nuisance is created because of trivial incidents like a boy and girl eloping or because Shilpa is kissed by Gere, it means that the main objective is to create a ruckus and seek attention. If there is nothing to protest about, find something to hog the attention of the media!

Remember the case of Shiv Sena activists turning violent when they protested against the desecration of a statue of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s wife…? Well, to block trains and roads was not the answer to this. Vehicles were burnt and destroyed during this ‘protest.’ Another protest in Maharashtra took place when another statue, this time of a revered Dalit leader, was desecrated in far away in Uttar Pradesh. Its as if there are people just waiting to be provoked, even if the incident happens miles away!

The recent Gurjjar agitation was also the handiwork of goons. Why else would public property worth Rs 12,000 crore be destroyed – that too in just one state – Rajasthan? And tell me, why should the taxpayers pay for this? The vandals should pay. If they can’t, they should go to jail.

True, protests can at times turn violent, specially if the police attack the protesters, but if the intention is to be violent then the police have no choice but to defend themselves.

There has been a well publicised case where punishment has been meted out. The Bombay High set a good precedent when it ordered the BJP-Shiv Sena to pay a compensation of Rs 20 lakh for having held a Mumbai bandh (shut-down) on July 30, 2003. The political parties were given eight weeks to pay the money to the court. This was a landmark judgement. The BJP did appeal against the order in the Supreme Court but lost. In September 2005, the parties paid up a fine of Rs 20 lakh each and this will be used for developmental projects.

Well, I hope this happens in the case of the Rajasthan riots. Charges have been filed and the leader of the Gurjjars has gone underground. According to news reports, he is very upset at the cases registered against him (which include murder of a policeman) because the Chief Minister of Rajasthan had assured him during negotiations that nothing of the sort would happen! Its not that shocking actually. If CM Vasundhara Raje promised him this, she was doing what is normally done. One wonders however if the guilty will be tried and if tried, whether they will be convicted.

It’s about time our political parties remembered Mahatma Gandhi and developed zero tolerance for vandalism and violence. Indians got rid of British rule by non-violent protests and today the contrast is bizarre. People become violent when a boy and girl elope!!

Related Reading: The 2007 Gujjar riots and 2008 update
Violent mob up family with kids in Nerul
Docs in India often have to face irate mobs
Comparision of violent crime in the world
Too many policemen on VIP duty in India
Poor people to Police ratio
2006 Dalit violence when Ambedkar’s statue was damaged in Kanpur
Fake mob attack by political party

(Photo credits: yahoo)

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 8, 2007 6:43 pm

    Nita, I feel really sad. It was all over the international media. Nobody controlled the miscreants because there were political ramifications. After the intervention of honourable Supreme Court there is a Gujjar Panchayat going on in Pushkar today where the MP’s and MLA’s of different political parties are emphasising that Colonel Bhasanla is not the only one looking after their so called interests. It is no secret who’s interests they guard.

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