Archives  >  2019  >  November  >  6th

Cops, Up In Arms

1. What’s the story?

Delhi Police is not happy. Cops in Delhi just ended their almost 11-hour-long protest late evening on Tuesday, after assurances by top brass and ministers — but the situation still remains tense. “The Police Headquarters (PHQ) at ITO in central Delhi saw hundreds of Delhi Police personnel on Tuesday holding protests to demand stern actions on repeated violence against them by lawyers.” According to many experts, though, this widespread agitation was a long-time coming. “No one ought mistake the police protesting in India’s National Capital—defying both their service rules and their superiors—as having been angered by a single incident. Being punished for using force while enforcing parking rules against a lawyer might be the spark, but it’s fallen on exceedingly dry tinder.”

Tell me more.

These protests, which started as a parking row between lawyers and certain police officers in front of the Tis Hazari Court Complex on Saturday, soon snowballed into a larger, more comprehensive set of demands. 

“The violent clash resulted in the injury of at least 20 police personnel and several lawyers. The lawyers alleged that the police opened fire at them first.” 

Some people, however, maintain that the seeds for this were sown many years ago, in 1954, when independent India’s Intelligence Bureau conducted its second survey of crime in the country, and warned everyone of the dismal state of Indian police.

“ “The number of police is insufficient”, it warned. “Control over bad characters has been lost due to various reasons”. “A reassessment of the strength of police in all states”, the report went on. “It is necessary”, it added, “that the service conditions be examined carefully, to decide whether they are attractive enough”.

Delhi’s agitation is part of a pattern of nationwide policing-related crisis. The implosion of the Haryana Police along caste lines in 2016, searingly documented in Prakash Singh’s official investigation; the failure of intelligence services and police to contain violence after the arrest of Ram Rahim Singh; the near-collapse of the state across southern Kashmir in 2018: together, they show the law-enforcement system on which the Indian Republic rests is at breaking point.

First up, there’s this: police forces across the country are treated like animals, not professionals providing a critical service. Leaving aside stand-outs like Maharashtra Police, which has introduced eight-hour shifts, a typical officer’s working day runs to over sixteen hours, with no provision for overtime or compensatory leave. In most states, constables start on a basic salary of ₹5,200, which translates into some ₹25,000 take-home, and do not have guaranteed access to housing, especially in cities.

In Delhi, there’s no system for personnel spending hours on guarding roads where VIPs move, or the protection of the city’s large collection of eminent citizens, to be served cold water on a hot day, let alone given a decent meal, or guaranteed a ride home.”

So, what now?

The protest might have ended, but tension still lurks beneath the surface. Following the Tis Hazari altercation, lawyers also protested in front of the Supreme Court on Monday, demanding the enforcement of the Lawyers Protection Act.  “…some practitioners…” even “went on a rampage, assaulting a policeman and some passers-by, according to multiple videos posted on social media.”

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. What else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Farmers in Punjab, that’s what. Delhi may still be choking, but maybe it’s time we thought twice before placing the blame squarely on stubble burning by farmers of neighbouring states. There’s a reason why they’re being forced to release poison into the atmosphere, they say. 

“Rajeev Sharma – a farmer based in Ambala’s Narayangarh block in Haryana – had put in an application for a happy seeder machine on 30 September earlier this year.

“I was told by the officials to first form a cooperative of around 15 people. Then, they kept rejecting my application on some ground or the other,” says Rajeev who claims that only two happy seeder machines are currently available per block in his neighbouring area. Which means that for 1,000 farmers in a single village only two machines are available.

He still hasn’t received a happy seeder machine, but he isn’t inclined on following up with the ‘babus’ anymore.”

(Quick recap: Happy seeder is a machine that helps farmers dispose of their crop residue without resorting to burning.)

3. What more?

For migrant workers in Kashmir, the past few months have been filled with strife and loss. The state’s near-complete shutdown has brought less work for these labourers, and increased their worries. However, they still refuse to speak “either about the Centre’s August 5 decision or recent attacks by militants on non-locals.”

“Dilshaer Ali, 33, runs a small wood carving workshop in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. After the Valley shutdown to protest the dilution of Article 370 on August 5, Ali didn’t return to his hometown in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Many of Ali’s colleagues and associates from states like UP, Bihar, Orissa and Uttarakhand, who worked in different parts of Kashmir as woodcarvers, plumbers and painters, left the valley in the weeks after August 5. He, however, preferred to stay back with his family in Budgam.

Even after the recent attacks on drivers and migrant labourers by suspected militants in south Kashmir, Ali didn’t feel threatened. “I didn’t feel any hostility and the people in Budgam have been nice to me,” says Ali. “Because of the shutdown, I haven’t earned as much as I usually do. I did get some work from September onwards to earn enough for my family and pay the rent here,” he says.

Close to a tea shop in a market area in the outskirts of Srinagar city, Ramesh Kumar (name changed), who is from Bihar, runs a small street food stall. He opens it in the early hours of the morning, before the market shuts down for the rest of the day. He’s reluctant to talk about how the shutdown and the recent killings of migrant labourers in South Kashmir and what impact the two developments have had on migrant workers like him. He also does not want to talk about the possibility of returning to Bihar.

“If we don’t work here, who will feed our families,” says Kumar who lives with his family and children in a rented room in Srinagar. He came to Kashmir almost two decades ago. After working as a labourer for several years, he bought a handcart to set up the street food stall in the market area.”

4. Anything else?

In extremely puzzling news, Bengal’s BJP Chief has claimed that cow’s milk is yellow since it contains gold, setting off a furore across party lines.

“He also said that if people are comfortable eating beef, they should eat dog meat too.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Bhopal, Pragya Thakur, claims that cow urine cures cancer and Rajasthan’s Education Minister Vasudev Devnani believes that the animal considered sacred for Hindus is capable of pumping out oxygen into the atmosphere, West Bengal’s BJP President Dilip Ghosh has a fresh new take: he believes that the reason cow milk is yellow in India is because it contains gold.

According to The Indian Express, Ghosh said, “Desi cows have a hump on their back. Foreign breeds do not have humps and their backs are plain like that of a buffalo. The hump has ‘Swarna Nari’ (gold artery). When sunlight falls on the hump, it produces gold. That is why the milk of desi cow is yellowish or lightly golden. It contains gold. If one drinks only desi cow milk it is enough for sustenance. There are many religious men who live by drinking cow milk and water from the Ganges.”

5. Is that all?

Meanwhile, Iraq’s anti-Government protests rage on, even after the Iraqi Prime Minister is all set to step down to meet the protestors’ demands. 

“Essa, 23, shakes a can of red spray paint, crouches over the sidewalk near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and scrawls something shocking about Iran’s supreme leader.

“Khamenei is an ass,” it reads.

The insult to Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spray painted without fear, would have been unimaginable before anti-government protests swept from Iraq’s southern coast to its capital in the past month. Demonstrators accuse Iran and Iran-backed politicians of of controlling Iraq and harming the country’s interests. Iran has strong links to Iraqi security and intelligence forces, and even perceived insults have led to threats.

Essa says he’s not afraid. He has nothing to lose. He’s a laborer but he has no work. And like most of the protesters, he blames their entrenched poverty on corrupt Iraqi politicians who put other countries’ interests first.
The protests, the biggest since 2003, have shaken the foundations of the Iraqi government. More than 250 protesters have been killed and thousands more wounded since the demonstrations began in early October, demanding jobs and better public services.”

6. Before you leave…

Read about the tense, heartbreaking story of the American prisoner who is “stuck between Trump and the Kremlin.

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