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MP: ‘Between Police and Saffron Groups, Govt Always Sides With Latter’

Senior police officers say such government action demoralises the morale of officers and personnel.
Madhya Pradesh Police Headquarter

Some senior police officials admitted that police often face the music for acting against saffron groups. (Representational image) | Image courtesy: @MPDial100/Twitter

Bhopal: Within 24 hours of the face-off between the police and the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) men in Indore over blockading of a busy square without permission, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Madhya Pradesh transferred two police officers, including an IPS (Indian Police Service) officer.

The two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS- affiliated Right-wing groups were demanding withdrawal of an FIR (first information report) lodged against one of its workers at Palasia police station of Indore, alleging foul play. They also demanded action against the “growing” pub culture in Indore. Subsequently, members of the two orgnaisations blocked the nearest and the busiest Palasia square to build pressure on the police causing a massive jam in the locality. When they refused to budge despite assurances to look into their grievances, the police said they started detaining a few protestors to clear the jam.

According to police sources and videos of the incident, to oppose their detention, the protesters “mistreated police personnel and pelted stones”, prompting the police to resort to lathi-charge, causing injuries to four police personnel and a few protestors. 

"A group of Bajrang Dal activists suddenly gathered at the busy intersection without any permission and staged a sit-in protest, leading to traffic jams on all four roads," Dharmendra Singh Bhadoria, Deputy Commissioner of Police told the media soon after the incident. 

"When the protesters refused to budge despite repeated appeals by the police, they were moved away from the spot using mild force," he had said.

As the video of the police action went viral, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took cognisance of the incident within 24 hours, and Home Minister Narottam Mishra transferred DCP Bhadoria to the commandant at the Rustomji Armed Police Training College (RAPTC) and Palasia police station in-charge Sanjay Singh Bais to the police line. 

The Home Minister also appointed ADG Vipin Maheshwari to probe the incident. 

For “pelting stones and mistreating” police personnel, the Indore Police lodged an FIR against "unknown" persons under Sections 147 (rioting), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 332 (causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

The BJP government's action came at a time when a video of Right-wing protestors raising 'objectionable slogans' against the Chief minister and warning that they wouldn't support the party in the election was going viral on social media groups.

“Indecent” slogans were allegedly raised in front of the BJP's Indore district president Gaurav Randive and BJP leader Eklavya Singh Gaur who went to meet the protesters after the lathi-charge. Randive, who initially denied such slogans, admitted when the video went viral saying that the “protesters were not members of Bajrang Dal”. The BJP office-bearers refused to comment on the episode.

Now, Right-wing groups are demanding suspension of the IPS officer. 

"The police action left 11 Bajrang Dal men injured. We demand suspension of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Indore and in-charge of Palasia police station," said VHP's Malwa region (Indore-Ujjain division) secretary Sohan Vishwakarma.

NewsClick reached out to Bhadoria, who has been transferred after the lathi-charge incident, but he refused to comment on his transfer, but said he was “part of the system” and had tried to “deal with the situation in the best possible way.” 

"We are just delivering our duties. We succeed in some, and we fail in some," he said, adding, "Government sometimes appreciate our work, sometimes they do not."

Some senior police officials admitted that police often face the music for acting against saffron groups.

This is not the first incident when the BJP government has sided with the fringe groups against police action, said a senior officer, requesting anonymity. In the past two-three years, Madhya Pradesh has witnessed many face-offs between police and Right-wing groups, but in all the cases, the fringe groups “had the upper hand”, he added.

This became evident on June 21, 2023, when the state government removed three police officers, including Bhopal's Bilkhiriya Police station officer-in-charge BP Singh after RSS-affiliated student group ABVP men vandalised the building of a private college after a rift with the college administration over fees and allegedly delaying the lodging of their (ABVP) FIR.

On November 1, 2021, when VHP and Bajrang Dal men were allegedly forcing Kolgawan Police station officials of Satna district to lodge an FIR against Christians who gathered for Sunday prayers at a church under conversion laws, the police refused to do so after finding their allegations a “gimmick.”

Later that day, dozens of Bajrang Dal men gathered outside the Kolgaon police station, blocking the road to pressure the police to lodge an FIR. When police personnel tried to detain them, a Bajrang Dal man allegedly hit a pregnant constable on the belly, prompting the police to resort to a lathi charge.  

When videos of this incident, too, went viral, the police registered two FIRs in the Kolgaon police station of Satna district under Sections 3 and 5 of the MP Freedom of Religion Act against Father Biju Thomas, Santosh Thomas and three others for conversion and seven police personnel, including Praveen Tiwari and Devendra Sen, were removed from their posts.

Similarly, in Seoni district, when 14 Bajrang Dal men allegedly killed two tribals over suspicion of cow smuggling on May 2-3, 2022, tribals sat on strike, demanding demolition of the homes of all the accused, which was the trend in Madhya Pradesh then. Weeks after the kiosk of an accused associated with the Right-wing group was razed, the government transferred the superintendent of police, Kumar Prateek.

"How to disburse the unruly agitators who cause a law and order situation in the locality is part of our training. When officials deliver the same, they face the music," said a IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh requesting anonymity. 

"The Indore Police did exactly the same when protesters began pelting stones at the police. The citizens have the right to peaceful protest, not violent ones that cause mayhem," he said.

Police sources cite numerous incidents in which the government “sided” with Right-wing groups, while for similar crimes, stringent action was taken or the homes of many accused were demolished.

In December 2021, when a group of alleged Bajrang Dal men attacked a Christian school in Vidisha district while students were writing their examination papers, the government “sided” with the saffron groups. This became evident when despite the media cry, even after 18 months of the incident, no arrest has been made.

Similarly, when a group of men associated with a Right-wing group thrashed a bangle seller in Indore on August 25, 2021, instead of taking strict action against the attackers, the police booked and arrested a Muslim bangle seller under molestation charges. The attackers were allowed to walk free within a week.

"This is called a professional hazard. We work in a democratic system, and police action always leaves a party in peril. The officers do what they find suitable, based on the situation, and the government reacts differently," an ADG rank officer of Madhya Pradesh police told NewsClick. "But yes, government action against senior officials for political gain demoralises the morale of cops," he added.

He further said, "Sometimes police actions are politically motivated, as no officer wants to take the government head-on as it may jeopardise their career graph or service book."

There are numerous incidents in the past three years when police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse mobs, but no one was transferred or suspended. 

In September 2022, Police resorted to lathi-charge when unemployed youths tried to meet CM Chouhan. Similarly, teachers waiting for joining letters also faced police action in 2021 when they protested against the government. Interestingly, unlike Indore, no police officer faced the music for this.

"In the past three years, on the direction of the government, police thrashed teachers, students, ASHA, USHA workers, unemployed youths and others. The videos of the incident were as brutal as Indore's, but no police official was taken into account," Ranjeet Raghuwanshi, an agriculture student, who led many protests related to unemployment, told NewsClick.

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