Notes of Dissent on the AAP Dharna

I have no issues with anyone using dharnas as a political strategy, whether or not they are the Chief Minister. The “inconvenience” and “dignity of office” arguments being made by some also hold little truck with me. I write here then to mark my dissent on three specific fronts against the recently concluded AAP dharna from a different vantage point. As with all thoughts on things emergent, they are offered in the making with all their attendant uncertainties.

One, after the events in Khirki Village, I find it hard to have faith that this government will not use a police in their control to ends they see morally, ethically and politically fit rather than those within agreed frames of law or constitutional values. These ends are possibly alarming — the silence within AAP against Somnath Bharti’s unacceptable, racist, sexist, moralistic and unlawful tirade in Khirki is cause for deep concern and shame. The active endorsement and defence of his actions by Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders, however, is worse.

Nothing is worse for democratic politics than leaders who are so certain of their beliefs that they hold them above the law and indeed see them as law — that is what corruption is about. That is the kind of certainty and arrogance this party claimed to rise against. The echo of Jan Lokpal is resounding here, and our collective clamour for benevolent dictators and moral saviours must concern us all. We seem to have them on all sides and in all party colours now and it says more about us than them. I was willing to see how the party would grow as it came to power but this incident and its handling is making me rapidly lose faith in this party’s commitment to an equitable politics that is not just its version of how the world should be and live, or reduced to “anti-corruption.”

Two, there are good, thought-through reports on police reform that “give” the police neither to the state nor the centre but establish a sense of autonomy, accountability and citizen-state oversight. Let us please remember that other states of India where the police is under state control hardly have shining police forces. AAP needs to address these reforms and not make a simplistic demand of handing the police to them just as the Congress and BJP did and do. Give us a vision of how a police force should be run, don’t just demand to be their masters and try and suspend them for not following your diktats blindly. Different masters don’t make more egalitarian institutions and, as a “Delhi voter” they keep addressing, I don’t want the police to just move between goons with different hat-geometries.

Three, and more broadly, AAP will have to find a balance between building and tearing down. This party has a chance to put in systems that will last after them that seek fairness but they need to show us that they have the capacity and imagination to govern. They are addressing an unequal system so some amount of challenge and tearing down is necessary but they must begin to speak in both voices within and outside their own party to indicate that they are capable of thinking about institutions beyond their own persons and leaders. Yes, its early days but that makes it all the more important for them to choose their first moves clearly. They have chosen to start with a chemotherapy-like slash and burn of all that stands — fair enough, but that will take both good and bad with it, leaving the body politic weakened and possibly unable to rebuild. I wonder, having merely days of governing under their belt, if this was the moment for this fight let alone that they have chosen to fight it on a case where, for once, the damn police is in the right.

21 thoughts on “Notes of Dissent on the AAP Dharna”

  1. (1)
    If laws are made by citizens (as per political philosophy of Swaraj) then where does the question of something being “unacceptable, racist, sexist, moralistic and unlawful” arises? What may be unacceptable, racist, sexist,moralistic, and unlawful for you may not be so for other people. For example you may not agree with Somnath Bharti here but Will you agree with change in child abuse law and reduce the age of consent to 13 [in Japan]? You may or you may not agree, You can view it as a subjective question or an objective [where answer is a number]. What I am trying to say is that it is difficult to define what is moral for everyone. and In absence of a universal standard of morality. One goes by on’es own idea of morality and act upon this. The only way to avoid it will be having different laws for different localities for example if people living in one area of Delhi have no problem with prostitution, drug racket, etc. then we can allow/legalize it all ( and criminalize it where people do not want it). I think people living in Khirki did not want it so the underlying premise under which Somnath Bharti acted during the mid-night drama is correct. Another way to explain this will be: Do most of the people living in your neighborhood thinks that prostitution and smoking weed should be legal, then It may be legal in your street. However, if people in another neighbor wants to believe in the principle of Khan principle then they will get laws which are representative of current day Khap Panchayat. Important distinction is there must be equality and Individual freedom [ to move from one neighborhood to another] if one does not agree with the viewpoints of majority living in one’s neighborhood. I think basic principle of AAP will help to bring the greater equality among various social class in India, at least to some extent related to Education/Basic human need/access to police-law-judiciary etc.

    (2)
    if you are living in a 4 bed room house with four housemates and there is only one television in one bed room with broken remote. Will you first try to repair the remote or try to bring the TV to bring to common area before putting your effort in fixing remote ? Same way, it does not make any sense to do any type of Police reform as long as state goverment have no control over Police and specially in this situation of confrontation where CM have to go to Dharna to make sure that a legit FIR (dowry case) is filed.

    (3)

    What you wrote does not make any sense. To me, this third paragraph is written by someone who lack imagination to put oneself into shoes of a tea vendor in a small town whose daughter is abducted by a son of politicians in broad daylight and police is refusing to take any action/file FIR (This particular example is based on Bollywood movies of 90s.. only to show that with little imagination, one should be able to understand the pain of a person belonging to the weakest section of our Indian Society.

    1. You had my attention till the first point. The irrelevant example in the second and the personal attack in the third kind of discredits the merit of your first. Sorry, but you come off as just another disillusioned AAP fanboy.

    2. Besides , even if every resident of khirkee thinks those african women were running ‘sex and drug rackets ‘ and wants them thrown out, it doesnt give any minister and the residents the right to descend on the hapless women’s house at midnight and demand police VIOLATE laws that exist to safegaurd every citizen’s basic human rights ! The procedure is important precisely because moralities are subjective ,and it gives a minimal protection to those who incur the wrath of majoritarian subjectivities as a result.
      Also giving the example “small town whose daughter is abducted by a son of politicians in broad daylight and police is refusing to take any action/file FIR ” is an absurd example that completely misses the point. Firstly, People are not protesting against AAP action demanding police do their duty , but against the illegal, unconstitutional demands of Bharti for police action asking police to actually go against the law and not do their duty ! He was not asking them to take due legal action/file FIR etc, but was actually not only taking law in his own hands, but also forcing them to violate the law in obeying his diktats – how is his action different from those of the other politicians asking police to obey their diktats rather than do their duty? And here the power situation was very different from that of a small town whose daughter is abducted ! the situation of the helpless african women on whom the entire residents of a colony alongwith a minister swooped like that can hardly be compared to ruthless sons of politicians and power brokers – thats why the action was deeply reprehensible.

    3. Well said DPak. Totally agree with your first point to the extent that people follow their own set of morality and should be left to do so. Issue is people are trying to impose their own morality on others without first having the decency to live it themselves.
      So anyone who does not agree with prostitution, drugs,bootlegging etc is a Khaapwala. He must be forced to accept all this and the associated criminal elements in order to be considered liberal.
      However, I find your suggestion that people have different moral codes for different areas a little unrealistic and unfair. What people do in their homes is purely their business, short of injuring or hurting others perhaps.
      This can only apply in a loose way on your public demeanour.
      I personally think prostitution as a practise should end because I’m yet to meet a woman who feels empowered by it. And I have long worked on issues related to trafficking and commercial sex workers. But I also know it is pretty my impossible given the poverty and inequality of opportunities.
      If an individual chooses to be a CSW, it’s her choice. But I strongly disagree with the business aspect.
      The way some people are defending the sex cartels in Delhi, it appears they think these are all served by liberated women who have made an informed and free choice about this. Whereas most of these people are trafficked into this trade.
      I feel pity for people who feel they are expressing their liberalism by defending prostitution, still a trafficking centred business in India.
      I thought even your third point was pretty self-explanatory, but people intent on not giving credence to another viewpoint will not get it.
      I also feel that if there is indeed racism, overt or covert, anywhere, the police’s inability to prevent crime syndicates and the drug mafia from operating in such areas will only vitiate things further.
      I’m usually an admirer of Gautam Bhan’s activism, but this is a poorly argued piece. And typical of BJP and Left wingers to call anyone who opposes their view AAPtards, or AAP followers.

  2. It seems like rhetoric and passion are being mistaken for incorruptability. If your actions are so strange and they end up with you shouting at people trying to do their jobs…the police…what does it matter what your motives are…you are just as do you know who I am as the people you complained about.

  3. The fact is, there is no evidence of Somnath bharati’s so called racist or sexist remarks. Its been made up by police in their defence.

    The argument that if police comes under Delhi government, they will use it for wrong reasons does not hold. AAP is about accountability. To whom is police accountable? If you go to file an FIR and he refuses to do so, what options do you have in current situation? Police thinks common people are gullible and can’t do anything against them, merely because police is supported by their corrupt bosses. If AAP has to end the corruption in police, they have to take control of that. That is how they will be truly made accountable to the elected representatives of the people.

    AAP is asking for police reforms for quite a while along with judicial reforms, electoral reforms etc. If wants to implement the police reforms, the Delhi police must be under them in the first place before they make it autonomous according to reforms. The reforms blue print already exists. AAP does not need to reinvent the wheel.

    1. Really ? if police refuses to file FIR’s , the only action available to a law minister is to lead a mob against people in a relatively vulnerable position and take the law in his own hands and force police to do what he wants? you can ask police follow due procedures and take proper action – do dharnas outside police stations , but that does not give you the right to take action against individual citizens and vulnerable groups in this manner . I just dont understand why people are not getting the simple fact that mob actions of this kind are very different from mass mobilisations against authorities and powerful lobbies. They are dangerous and counterproductive. There is no way you can lead and incite mob actions against individual citizens even if they are guilty, let alone act on the basis of the complaints of a majority in a clearly tense social situation instead of attempting to resolve issues through appropriate social interventions to diffuse tensions. How can a law minister not only take a partisan stand ,but actually pull the entire weight of his authority to force action by acting as the accuser, the judge and the jury all by himself and the support of one section living in that colony?

  4. Point 1 :
    This is related to events at khirki extension. For those events there are different version coming. one that of Minister Somnath Bharti(& people of khirki), other that of Foreign womens and last that of Police. To determine whicever version is true Independent judicial enquiry is constituted. Let not get judgemental and get the report. If in report minister is accused of any kind of criminal/racial violence and AAP does not take action then we should go hammer and tongs on them. For the time being lets not rush to conclusion.
    NOTE: Some may argue that for independent inquiry as Cops were removed so minister should also resign. But thats not required, because of the unique case of delhi where police is neither reporting to delhi govt nor to the law mnister and judge who will conduct inquiry is not accountable to law minister, so law minister cant influence inquiry and not needed to resign.

    Point 2. On the greater issue of police reforms, delhi govt can only act if police were in there control. So for delhi first fight sholud be for making police accountabe for delhi govt. and then for its reform. On the national level what AAP thinks of police reform , i think will be clear from there Election Manifesto. We should wait for this to come out.

    Point 3 ; On the issue of being the first case where ” the damn police is in the right” i will again say that there are different version of stories. One can argue this is not the case of “police being right” but the case of “police-home ministry-drug mafia” nexus so they refused to act against them. One can also argue that normally politician take money from police and didnt hear police voice, but this being the 1st case where politican came in support of people when they have been refused any help from all level of police.
    So , what I want to say that please dont be judgemental on this stage. let the inquiry over and truth be come out

    1. lets assume this minister somanath bharti’s version was right , i still dont see how clear problems even with his version are not visible. In an area ridden by racial tensions , instead of working out a strategically planned sensitive social intervention to come up with a resolution which takes care of vulnerabilities of all sides, the minister chose to take partisan action on the basis of claims of one side and incite mob action on that basis . Worse , he got angry with police for doing their job ! – its immaterial whether or not police is part of a drug mafia or not – they simply cannot search, arrest, harass relatively vulnerable and powerless women even if they were part of any racket without following a due legal process. We can violate these minimum gaurantee’s constitutionally granted to secure basic liberties of individual citizens and vulnerable groups only at our peril !
      Its unfortunate that a law minister well aware of these facts, chose to take this recourse instead by acting as police, lawyer, judge and jury all by himself on the basis of complaints of one section of a colony against another section which is a racial minority ? If this is the way AAP has decided to resolve sensitive social issues , all of us who had any hope here are already doomed.
      And why suddenly now become a stickler about a judicial probe and suddenly act all impartial after going all out in defense of teh minister, with the chief minister even without waiting for the results of the enquiry chose to sit on a dharna demanding the SHO’s suspension and defending Bharti ? If there were concerns about the probe being influenced by the SHO why not simply push forward that request as chief minister instead of immediately declaring a dharna asking for his suspension ? Why all the belligerence instead of standing up and saying that nobody is above law and action will be taken if anyone’s found guilty, including somnath bharti? There was enough prima facie evidence even by the minister’s own account which indicated clear problems with his approach . Instead AAP like all other parties, chose to demand police control by the state over an issue where prima facie police was right procedurally atleast ? God knows, if it had managed to incite a bigger public response, it might have gone on with this madness endlessly – is this the role of a party asking for change – fan tensions on socially sensitive issues even more?
      Means, methods and processes are important and AAP failed miserably in this test , whatever the result of judicial probes on Bharti’s actions. If they are going to be like all other parties and just blindly defend their own people instead of being honest and open and forthcoming about their own mistakes, they are doomed already.

      1. First of all i would like to clear that I am not defending Minister , infact i myself wanted his resignation(immediately) but on his other actions.

        1. Yes i do believe that the situation should have been handled more strategically based on planned sensitive social intervention , but that those not mean we ask his resignation

        2.There are various allegations against law minister and his suppporters viz.
        a)he incited mob action against womens(denied by them),
        b)entered forcefully into womens house(completely denied by them)
        c)mistreated with womens(completely denied by them)
        d)Become judge by himself(they say that they didnt become judge but instead asking police to conduct search),
        e)labelled womens as prostitutes without proof(they say they have proof), f)dont follow legal process/warrant was not there(for search in case of drug and prostitution no search waarrant needed sec 42 of NDPS act 1985 & sec 15 of ITP act 1956 ),
        g)cant search women after sunset(completely untrue, there are procedure in laws for search of womens after sunset too- same sections above) etc etc.

        There are many more allegations and counter allegations which needed to be inquired independently. One may ask then why to ask for suspension/transfer of cops, & not of minister, simply because cops can influence inquiry but minister cant.

        3. Now the question that why they sit on dharna immediately demanding suspension/transfer of SHOs. First of all, dharna was not in reaction of Khirki incident. There were three different incident, which all three in general shows the prevaling unaccountability of Delhi police. And they did not sit on dharna immediately, CM himself first ask police commisoner, then LG and finally Home minister. When none of them responded then they have to sit on dharna to demand suspension/transfer of SHOs so that independent inquiry takes place in khirki extension case and police accountability be fixed in another two cases.

        4.The allegation that AAP failed in means & method is completely baseless. Although as in first point i do beileve that khirki extension case should have been handled more strategically, but thats one single minister behaviour which is under judicial inquiry. Other than that whole approach including dharna is completely justifiable and democratic( in contrast to ‘anarchic’ as some people are propagating)

        5. Having said all above i do believe that minster should have resigned not because of alleged “raid incident” but due to his other series of account, so that to maintain the moral standard of AAP
        a) Case of calling Judges meeting – Although his intentions were right but instead of asking his PA to call meeting of judges he can restort to other means to reach out to them to know the problem of judiciary. We may say that his behaviour were naive in nature, but he keep on committing mistakes
        b) He named raped victim in press release. This is completely unacceptable and cant be forgiven in the name of mistake that too from law minister
        c) His use of abusive language against senior leaders of other party is simply unacceptable. Although party has offered apology on his behalf but he himself has not offered it.
        Above three cases are in themselves enough, seeing which one should himself resigned to maintain AAP standard.

  5. Beautifully written. I had been wondering lately about the quality of Kafila after a comment of mine did not get published because it raised doubts about the author’s obviously mistaken stand. However, articles such as the above one balance out the weaknesses of this endeavor.

  6. while i agree what Somnath Bharti reportedly did to African women is wrong but what about caused his behaviour.the purported cause of this was the complaint of drug trafficking and sex trade carried out by some people living in that locality.Shouldn’t that be investigated?then you doubt their intentions that this protest was done to save one of their leaders but if that had been the case then the protest would have continued .they have called back their protest and that leader is open to scrutiny now.their cant be any doubt that police reforms should be implemented but don’t you think that accountability of police force is one of key features of such reforms

    1. The question is not whether or not the accusation of drug/sex rackets should be investigated. Of course they should. But should the investigation be conducted by a group of vigilantes, or should it be conducted by the legal authorities, keeping in mind both the fact that there is evident racial prejudice against African residents in Khirki (which might lead to fraudulent allegations) as well as that there have been instances of actual drug rackets by Nigerian nationals in Delhi in the past? It is a difficult, sensitive matter, and must be handled as such.

      Police inaction is recurrent in Delhi, the need for police reforms a foregone conclusion. I’m just unable to understand how Somnath Bharti or the AAP think bullying is an acceptable approach to reform or ensuring police accountability.

  7. the people went to the minister because the legal authorities had refused to act for a long time despite written complaints.
    instead of brushing them off like most ministers do (which minister can ordinary people go to anyway at night or even in t he day?) , he went with them to verify their complaints – this has been repeated again and again.
    he says he saw activity which substantiated the residents’ complaints. he sent a decoy and the decoy was told it would cost rs 10,000 a night (INdian express report). he then asked the police to act. no warrant is necessary as long as one can justify one’s action in writing; and can record the reasons for entering, searching & detaining without a warrant.
    which of these acts of the minister were wrong?
    has the delhi police never whisked away slum dwellers without a warrant? have they ever bothered about warrants when told by bajrang dal vigilantes to act? what about suspected muslim terrorists – do they always go armed with warrants? then how come they show their arrest as having taken place days later?

    about the allegations made by the women – let the judicial inquiry decide. btw, police can easily influence judicial inquiries. they did so during the srikrishna commission hearings. they threatened witnesses.
    as yogendra yadav points out, this wasn’t about conduct/moral judgment. it was a complaint about illegal acts, such as drug selling & prostitution.

  8. It is a pertinent post with a logical sequence of reasoning! I found an interesting and relevant post by one gentleman in rediff.com website…….”AK has only 1 Envelope left!”.

    AK has only 1 envelop left
    by R Kumar (View MyPage) on Jan 23, 2014 05:30 AM

    There was an outgoing CEO of a poorly performing company, welcoming the new CEO in office. Before he left, he gave 3 envelops (numbered 1,2,3) to new CEO and said in case of difficulties you can open them in sequence.

    The new CEO kept envelops in drawer and started his work.
    Few weeks later, the situation of company didn’t improve ( as there were no policy changes made), so he decided to open the Envelop no 1.
    There was a card inside saying – “Blame the predecessor.”
    CEO found it quite interesting and started blaming the earlier CEO. It gave him some time, but company situation did not improve.

    After few months, he opened the Envelop Number 2, which had a card saying- “Reshuffle/transfer people.” And that’s what our dear Arvind Kejriwal is doing right now. (Do not forget that by using the envelop no 1, AK has got into the power)
    8 IAS transferred the first day, 800 employees of DJB transferred in 1 week time and surely more will come soon.

    Now coming back to CEO of the poorly performing company, the situation didn’t change with 2 firefighting practices. Changes require sound institutional practices, motivated employees; firing/transfers do not do it necessarily. Company continued to perform in the same poor way.
    Within few more months he decided to open the third envelop. Which said – “TIME TO WRITE 3 ENVELOPS”

    That’s why Arvind Kejriwal will fight LS election

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