Something went wrong

‘Something went wrong’ was Chidambaram’s reaction to the Maoist massacre in Dantewada. The media headlines screamed for about a day and then things went quiet as the media became busier with Sania and Shoaib’s drama. Then the media stirred a bit when Chidambaram announced that he wished to step down, owning up moral responsibility. That is perhaps the only aspect where he differed from his predecessor. He seemed to know how to actually shrug off responsibility and also how to paint the scene a whole new colour.

Just imagine a slightly different scenario. What if the same attack was perpetrated by a group of terrorists belonging to some of the famous outfits from Pakistan? Even if the death toll was half as much, the whole media and the government would have gone berserk. Accusations and counter-accusations would have flown back and forth; the Pakistani Ambassador would have been summoned to the Home Minister’s office and delivered a demarche. The US would have commented about it. World media would have landed there.

We have a large, well-rooted, well-armed, and highly trained insurgency groups spread across central and north eastern India threatening the very existence of our democracy. Yes, the it’s tiring to say something like that but unfortunately sometimes clichés are the only way to define things. Especially when comes to these rebel groups. Think about it. They are not motivated by religion. They don’t quote verses from an ancient book to justify their murders. These rebels don’t invoke their favourite god before killing people belonging to other gods. So what motivates these murders?

Well, it is not appropriate to try to justify murders. To say that a prostitute was a destitute and a robber was an abandoned orphan and a terrorist’s family lived in abject poverty are not only old chestnuts but also constitute downright crime. Nevertheless, let us try to indulge in it briefly.

How many people have these so-called Maoists killed? If we try to rack our memory can we come up with a certain pattern that crucially differentiates these gun-wielding groups from those book-wielding terrorists? These naxal groups have always targeted local police. This sounds blindingly obvious but holds a significant point. What role do these police play in those regions? What is their role in the first place? Don’t shy away from asking these questions nor reject them as silly and pointless.

Take Mumbai or Chennai for instance, one of the urban and metropolitan cities in India. How does the experience of entering a police station sound to you? Picture the station, the response you’ll receive from the constable or the inspector, and the follow-up you’re likely to get on any crime you were planning to report. Now hold onto that picture for a while and drag the map across a bit (as you’d do in Google Maps) and move to an interior Chattisgarh, a rural Orissa, or Dantewada. Now try and enter the police station.

You don’t want to do that. And you don’t want to describe what you’d see. Now to articulate the point the last two paragraphs are trying to make, police brutality is something as clichéd as an abandoned orphan turning into a thief. It has been portrayed a million times in our movies and when we watch a policeman beating up someone in the lock-up we don’t even think because we have been utterly desensitised to that scene. But one cannot desensitise from reality. When you’re taken to a police station, beaten up or raped, you can’t say ‘we’ve seen it all in our movies’.

Our Police force, among other things, are one of the most ruthless, merciless, and criminal institutions in India. They don’t protect or care for people anymore. They have become bloated, lost in their own importance, and having played subservient to the ruling governments, they have skewed far far away from their goals. Today, perhaps the police commit more crimes than the so-called criminals. And unlike criminals they get away with it and often it has become a way of their life. INDIA HAS BECOME A POLICE STATE. And the media has yet to realise this. Dantewada is one of the attempts at this rude awakening.

An ordinary man cannot approach the police and expect to get his concerns addressed. Not in Mumbai, not in Chennai and the situation is far worse in backward, rural pockets in northern India. When other vested interests such as mineral wealth and deforestation merge into this, you don’t even have to walk into a station. The police walk into your home, whether you like it or not. Whether you are a criminal or not. And when they walk into your home, it is not a pretty sight. And when a group of people among your clan take up arms to fight these bloated, barbarians on government payrolls, you may not join them but you’ll wish to all your gods that the rebels succeed.

We know what has gone wrong. We may even know what will set things right. We don’t want to do that. A fake attempt to resign won’t change that. Sending bigger troops to ram down on the Maoists won’t change that. Instead of what won’t change, it’s time to ask what will.

Dipping a bit into clichés might be a good start.