Ineptitude of the police

The CPM is fast losing its relevance in State politics. The unexpected rise of the BJP is threatening it to lose its traditional bastions in rural areas. That too at a time when the panchayat elections are looming ahead. The CPM desperately needed some media publicity, some attention from an otherwise indifferent public and a little more attention from the State Government as an opposition party. The inept police handling of the party’s ‘March to Nabanna’ on Monday got it all that it wanted: media publicity, public attention and the opportunity to play the victim. Monday’s mobilization was undoubtedly sizeable but not so big as for the Kolkata police not to be able to handle it with restraint and skill. In the event, the police overreacted and nicely played into the hands of a marginal player.
The police will no doubt plead that the party activists had become violent, that their heavy brick-batting had resulted in grievous injuries to many members of the force and that their breaking the barricades one after the other made it necessary for them (the police) to do what they did. But the agitators did exactly what they were expected to do to earn some nuisance value. The police should not have lost their patience and professionalism. Whatever the provocation from the agitators, the police should not have lost all sense of proportion and targeted reporters and cameramen who had gone to cover the event as professionals. Some of the shots in the TV channels showed policemen beating up women and elderly persons who had fallen on the road and were groaning. This demonstration of police ‘valour’ was quite unnecessary. It proved to be counter-productive.
If the police had advance information about the size of the agitators who converged from five different points, adequate number of policemen could have been deployed so that the agitators were encircled as soon as they arrived, thus denying them any chance to break the barricades. It was hardly necessary to give such a thrashing to the elderly Kanti Ganguly whom the police knew well as a former minister. That police vigilance left much to be desired is proved by the fact that some senior CPM leaders like Sujan Chakraborty and Ashok Bhattacharyya managed to give the police the slip and reach the north gate of Nabanna. Such lapses must be prevented in future. For the CPM, it is time to lick its wounds and calculate how much political dividend it has reaped from the ‘March to Nabanna’.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2017