Election, Guns and Roses: Unruly "drunk" mob, EVMs and "Silchar Murdabad"
“No problem with Assam Police but Central Forces are communal” screamed a man while pointing fingers at an IPS Officer deployed as the superintendent of police. The police officer was armed, and with reinforcement. The man abusing central forces and the country’s defence was wrapped with lack of education and mob-mentality. The officer calmly said, “They have come here from different regions and working day and night to secure the general public. You cannot abuse them in this manner,” and moved on to the next person, who was probably abusing at a higher decibel level.
The incident took place in Sonai’s Dhonehori area where there were hundreds agitating and waiting to see the deputy speaker handcuffed. All of them are within their rights to protest, but peacefully. At the end of the day, your freedom to swing your arms ends where my nose begins. Beyond a point, it is not freedom to protest but a criminal offense. The people of Dhonehori had their reasons as the fire was opened at the polling stations.
Cut to Udharbond’s Jhapirbond area. A truck which according to the deputy commissioner, has lost its tarpaulin cover due to blowing wind was carrying reserved, unpolled EVMs. A mob of around fifty young boys stopped the truck, climbed on top of it, and started vandalizing all that is inside. Why? “A massive EVM scam is unfolding.” No one thought to ask what these EVMs are and why they are being carried. EVMs mean scam. When you graduate from the WhatsApp university, the next thing you say is “burn it down.” The truck by now has lost its windshield to stone-pelting. Out comes a female magistrate, and says “Calm Down.” Her appearance makes it worse as the mob has someone to go after.
She stands between the mob and the EVMs and tries to explain the proceedings. No one willing to listen, as stone-pelting continues someone says, there is another private car on the other side of the road. A section of the mob shifts focuses while another section questions the unavailability of Police officials with the EVM.
It is obvious that the mob in hundreds will fail to see the one or two police officials who were standing nearby. In India, the sanctioned Population Per Police Person (PPP) is 511.81 and the sanctioned Police Population Ratio (PPR), police personnel per lakh of population, is 195.39. When there is one Police official standing against 511.81 unruly civilians, there is very little that he or she could do in uniform. And if there is any question regarding the lack of forces, the question must be asked to the government, a phenomenon that ceased to exist. Over 5.31 lakh posts in police forces of different states and 1.27 lakh posts in Central Armed Police Forces like CRPF and BSF have been lying vacant according to the Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D). Why is the government not filling these posts?
Move to another side of the road, the vehicular traffic is jammed. Why? Because a mob has turned a private car upside down. According to them, this was another EVM scam unfolding right in front of their eyes. Inside the car, there was a sector officer with the EVM he was assigned to roam with. DC Cachar who is also the returning officer said the Sector Officers are entitled to use private cars for commutation and they can keep EVM with them in the private car. The EVMs are kept with the sector officers to facilitate quick replacement. The private car has been vandalised and as informed by the deputy commissioner, the sector officer has been manhandled too. When a mob of more than a hundred manhandle, nine out of ten times it becomes mob-lynching. Such are the fine margins. The Sector Officer has lodged an FIR.
“Leave the car, cross the road, we have caught another truck full of EVMs,” screamed someone on top of his voice and a section of the mob crossed the divider, rushed to the truck and started pelting stones. It was a lorry with iron gates, they opened the gate and there it was, a stockpile of EVMs with labels on top. Who cares to read what’s written on them, boom, they start “mission vandalise.” This time, between the mob and the EVMs is OC Silchar Sadar, Ditumoni Goswami. Someone in the mob says “set the truck ablaze,” and the others join “Yes, Yes, burn it down.” Others hurl abuses without an interruption at the officer in charge of the biggest police station in Barak Valley. Goswami opened the door and said go check what you want to check but do not damage. By now, there are 500 odd agitating in the most unruly manner.
Now, these incidents are not surprising at all. What is surprising is that the other side of the coin is crying foul. When a bunch of goons enters a restaurant at the heart of the town, breaks into a cabin, and films a girl naked to make it viral on social media, and when not a single lawmaker condemns the vehement breach of modesty, it is them who are responsible for the mob-mentality that almost takes over the bureaucracy. In a city where a national award-winning celebrity cannot complete his performance in a closed-door preapproved event, it is obvious that the administration and officers will not be able to transport EVMs without vandalisation.
In Cachar district, the mob-mentality has been encouraged for years and there are many examples where no action was taken against anyone for vandalisation, breach of privacy and modesty, causing insult to national pride in the name of protest. And it has happened in most parts of the country too.
In fact, as admitted by the deputy speaker of Assam, Aminul Haque Laskar, the mobs are now being equipped with guns and firearms. At Sonai, civilians handed over a 9.00 mm pistol to the Police after a violent situation prevailed for more than three hours. They said it is Laskar’s gun, but the deputy speaker counter alleged saying “It is Karim Uddin Barbhuiya’s Gun. There are many illegal weapons in his custody which are now in Sonai area.” That night there were thousands of protesters spread across the area. The deputy speaker who was also the MLA is claiming that the mob was equipped with guns. That close the society was from the bloodbath.
Not only Laskar, Silchar MLA, Dilip Paul who was a legislator for seven years, said “Illegal arms are being smuggled to various parts of Cachar district with the help of legislators.” He claimed, while at the party, he was a whistleblower, and now he has become an open critique. Peace and prosperity are the most used keywords in BJP’s election campaign, of course, after Ajmal. When arms are being smuggled and locals are recovering guns how can it all be peaceful?
The deputy commissioner, during her press briefing, said many in the mob at Mahasadak who ran ruckus were drunk. How can they get drunk on a dry day? It clearly exposes that liquor is being sold illegally throughout the length and breadth of the district. Now, this is happening where the excise minister hails from. Only once the officers got attacked, did the drunk men become a problem, until then, “Sab Changasi…!”
Around 2:00 am post-midnight when one thought the high-news day has come to an end, few women constables sat in the middle of the ‘Mahasadak’ that connects the city to the strong room where all EVMs were being taken. They said there are no toilets for women, no proper way of living, no good food, no fair treatment. Golaghat was brilliant but Silchar is horrible, “Silchar Murdabad.” Not only the female Police constables, but polling officials also complained about the same.
Yes, there was a little to be proud of and it’s fair that they raised, “Silchar Murdabad” slogans. But it is not just a few officers responsible for “Silchar Murdabad”. The way people protest and the little they hold the ‘Netas’ responsible is a big reason why it is “Silchar Murdabad”. The silence after ‘Chit Chat’ restaurant’s vandalisation is the reason behind the noise at Mahsadak. Today, it is the EVMs that are being vandalised, tomorrow, the democracy will crumble and the ones who are cheerleading the mob will find it against them as it has already started to happen. And when it all happens, Silchar Murdabad will get louder and louder.