Who Will Police The Police?

By Dhirendrda Panda,

Today morning I met one of my journalist friends having a better (than me) understating on current politics. For the last two-days I was wondering with a dozen of questions relating to the life imprisonment order to the ‘killers’ of the VHP leader Laxmanananda by the Judge of the Phulbani trial Court and after seeing my friend, I felt relaxed as if I was waiting to hear his analysis.

After a brief discussion about forth-coming Odisha Assembly Election and prospects of BJP in Kandhamal, I could not hold on my excitement for long and asked about his comments on the judgment, ‘Boss! On 30th morning the defense lawyer (one of senior most advocates of Kandhamal) was asserting that there were no evidence against his clients and he expressed his strong hope that the Court would acquit them. Even, the public prosecutors and supporters of Swami Laxmanananda were admitting in private at least seven persons would be acquitted. How could the judgment come out as the just reverse? Where does the truth lie?

He replied, ‘I knew it long before that ‘some people’ had to be convicted before the Odisha Assembly election announced.’

‘Known to you, but it is a surprise for me. Some activists – also some leaders, journalists believe that BJP people are politically matured enough to influence the ‘judges – even if they are not in power’ – I added. ‘And this indicates that they can come back to power in Delhi.’

He retorted, ‘activists’ always have a suspicious and biased mind. I agree – BJP always try to influence the justice delivery system in their favour. Yet, please tell me why they are not able to influence the ‘judges’ in Gujarat in fake encounter cases as it is expected – even if they are in power absolutely? Don’t you imagine if something happens there it will not only trouble Modi-ji, but also it will derail the entire national BJP? BJP doesn’t have that much of risk in Odisha.

Then, what is the mystery?

In his typical style he reverted a question to me – ‘You tell me. Suppose, these eight or seven persons are acquitted – what way could it impact the next election?’

‘BJP people will make again it an election issue – the BJD Government is not able to punish the ‘killers’ of Swami-ji even after five years’ and ‘the BJD party will not have an easy go to stand before the BJP’s campaign in Kandhamal – at least in two constituencies.’

‘And after this judgment, BJP lost ‘an issue’, he completed my answer. ‘They made it quite difficult for BJP to get back their G.Ugayagiri and Baliguda MLA seats’.

‘Can I assume – the ‘punished’ persons may not be ‘real culprits’? I wanted him to focus the discussion on the judgment.

‘You use your ‘seventh sense’ and assume whatever you feel appropriate. But, it came as a ‘gift’ to BJD. Their leaders had longed to see anyhow ‘some people’ convicted for killing Swamiji and awarded with some ‘attractive’ punishments before the election.’

‘How does it happen? Is it possible for a party to influence a judge?’

‘No, it is not that easy as you think. Everybody has a seventh sense – be she/he a judge or police officer. If you are ‘matured’ enough, don’t miss any opportunity to be close with the power. Most of the officers are struggling for a ‘better’ position in their office and also in the society – some of them realizes that it can only be ‘donated’ by ‘satisfied’ political bosses.’ My friend knows how to philosophize a wrong notion. ‘Viewing the moods of the voters as molded through the last five years in Kandhamal, the local opinion builders look forward for some ‘rationale’ to shift from the powerless BJP to powerful BJD. Intelligent’ duty bearers – judges or police officers should be able to understand the equation amongst the moods of the voters, minds of opinion builders, moves of media and, above-all, wants of the ‘powerful party leaders’.

I tried to stop my friend. ‘Let us not dare to comment on judges. Please don’t demoralise the police officers – who did a lot to identify and arrest ‘culprits’, collect all evidences, frame the charge-sheets, feed the public prosecutors, present before the courts – also face the ‘press’, suffice the seniors’ requirements and satisfy the political bosses.’

My friend continued ‘if the police officers were so capable or ‘committed professionals’, how could not they save the life of Swamiji from the killers on August 23, 2008, why did not they give adequate protection to Swamiji – even after receiving a complaint (FIR?) from his fellow ashramites on 21st August ? Why the security guards deputed by the Home Department for Swamiji were allowed to remain absent or unprepared in the same evening? ‘The public prosecutor provided the ground to the judge to write in the first page of his judgment ‘that during the August, 2008 a threatening letter was circulated amongst the District Administration at Kandhamal to eliminate Swamiji, but surprisingly despite the police protection the life of Swamiji could not be saved’. Has the judge tried to uncover the facts on why the prior informed District Administration could not save the life of the VHP leader? Also, has anybody tried to review the ‘reality’ of police protection? Has any authority including the judge tried to answer the question that always comes to the mind of an ordinary citizens (other name – voters) ‘why should not the duty bearers (the District Administration and District Police) be held responsible, if someone get killed because of their ‘omission or commission’.

My friend left and I continue to wonder who will ‘police’ the police?

(Writer is a Bhubaneswar based Human Rights Activist.)