‘Public apetite whets blood-thirst of killer-cops’

Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“What should worry us about the 2004 killings on the outskirts of Ahmedabad is that they are one more example of the impunity with which the State in India gets away with extra-judicial execution and the degree to which public indifference licenses this impunity…. The Gujarat police behaved like a murderous repertory company, not as guardians of law and order.

“In a news programme, [the Gujarat government spokesman] Jai Narayan Vyas asked why civil rights activists were so concerned about the civil rights of terrorists and so indifferent to the civil rights of ordinary citizens who were victims of terror. Colin Gonsalves, a lawyer, pointed out that this was the reddest of red herrings because no civil rights group had remotely made the case that the perpetrators of terror ought to go unpunished, but Vyas, ironically Gujarat’s minister for health, wasn’t debating Gonsalves, he was trying to tap into a public appetite for summary justice, an appetite that would absolve vigilante policemen of any blame; that would, in fact, make them heroes.

“Unless we learn to monitor and protest the impunity with which the State and the police resort to extra-judicial murder and custodial killing, outrage at specific instances of these becomes ineffective, even counter-productive. So if you rage and grieve when a middle-class Muslim girl who could have been your daughter is killed but ignore the recent and mysterious death of a murderous hoodlum called R. Rajan in police custody in Chennai, you aren’t protesting the violation of due process or taking a stand against extra-judicial murder: you are merely riding a private hobby horse: the welfare of minorities or the wickedness of the Gujarat government.”

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