Guest post by SAIYED DANISH
The death of the police constable Subhash Tomar in the middle of the anti-rape protests at India Gate is eerily reminiscent of the controversial death of Inspector Mohan Chandra during the infamous Batla House encounter in 2008.
The post-mortem report of Constable Subhash Tomar says that he died of a heart attack which was triggered by internal injuries. The police say those injuries were the result of fatal blows given to him by the angry protestors. However, a protestor named Yogendra had earlier said on national TV that he “saw him running towards the protestors and then collapsing suddenly on his own.” Yet another controversy over the death of a police man, with a familiar clash of State vs People’s versions has now begun.
With this development, the debate on different police and protestors’ versions of how Constable Subhash Tomar died, when he was posted with hundreds of security personnel to control the anti-rape protest from going haywire, has again raised a lot of questions on the credibility of the police side of the argument be it during a raid, an encounter or the controlling of protests such as the one at Raisina Hill.
Significantly, Tomar’s funeral was given full military honours with big wreaths being laid over his body, something which should cause raised eyebrows, as such distinguished honours to police personnel, especially constables, are only given for showing indomitable valour in extraordinary circumstances such as 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, 2008. Does such a funeral for Tomar suggest that the protestors are enemies of the State? What next? Gallantry award? A road in his name, like the road leading to Jamia Millia Islamia was hastily renamed Shaheed Mohan Sharma Road after the Batla House ‘encounter’?
Such unusual exercises carry the potential, as we have seen in the past, of sabotaging people’s movements, and offer legitimacy to crush and label people’s struggles as unconstitutional. Home Minister Shinde has already termed the protests as Maoist-inspired.
Often it has been proved that police or broadly the security apparatus, come up with fictitious narratives to cover up their own blunders in connection with an incident, which, either serves their own vendetta or personal interests or those of the residents of the North and South Blocks of the capital city. From Kashmir to Manipur, Jharkhand, U.P, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, it is always the police version vs the people’s version and it is no secret which one wins in the end.
The same colonial ways of tackling an unarmed crowd: lathi blows, tear gas, rubber bullets; only ‘Bloody Indians’ gets replaced with the verbal expletives referring to the wombs and vaginas of womenfolk.
More interestingly, these guards of honour of the establishment can put the likes of Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth and Joseph Kanon to shame when it comes to blending facts with fiction. They grow truth from the seed of falsehood as smoothly as a cube of butter cube dissolves in kadhai chicken. In the case of Subhash Tomar’s death in a place full of protestors running towards and stepping back when threatened by tear gas, all day at Raisina Hill, it is undeniable that there was a possibility of all of them becoming uncontrollable, especially with the lack of leadership. Then of course, circulating rumours of stone pelting, police-people skirmishes, arson and vandalism in some parts of the city already abuzz: the ingredients seem ready for the attribution of an injury to or death of a policeman in the centre of the storm, to “obvious” factors.
The parallel is undeniable, with the case of Inspector Mohan Sharma, whose injuries to which he succumbed, are still in search of a widely accepted ’cause’ within the L-18 apartment of Batla House.
It is an irony that the ones professionally entitled to inflict physical pain are provided with bullet-proof jackets, helmets, hard laced-boots and guns,not to mention columns of barricades, curfews and roadblocks to help them ‘restore’ law and order. Nine metro stations remained unoperational for two consecutive days. Electricity in some parts of the city was cut-off for some time in the afternoon to prevent TV viewers from relating to the simmering anger outside. Roads best known for traffic jams were turned into checkpoints which only a person possessing an I-card could cross. Lastly, if the fear of people’s power was still not compensated by para-militarily fortifying the heart of the Indian capital, the government still changed the venue of the visiting Russian President from Hyderabad House to 7 Race Course Road.
Already sounding like a state in the northern-most part of India?
Saiyed Danish is a freelance journalist, soon to join HARDNEWS magazine.