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Use of teargas, lathi etc would have turned Patiala House into another Jallianwalla Bagh: B S Bassi

Delhi Police chief B S Bassi says the JNU sedition case was a grave offence and shouldn’t be forgotten amidst ‘subsidiary events’, defends police inaction at Patiala House.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: February 28, 2016 10:34:53 am
bassi, delhi police bassi, bassi jnu row, patiala house court attack, patiala court attack, patiala court bassi, delhi police chief bassi, delhi news, india news, jnu anti national, jnu protests news Police Commissioner B S Bassi (right) with Chief of Bureau Maneesh Chhibber at The Indian Express office. (Source: Tashi Tobgyal)

Why B S Bassi?

Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi retires from service February 29 after 39 years in the force. Though in the news for investigation into the alleged acts of sedition in JNU, Bassi assumed command in the wake of the Dec 16 gangrape, which brought police under heavy scrutiny. Under his watch, police ushered in technology to bridge the gap between its men and the public, including mobile apps. Refusing to work purely on the basis of statistics, Bassi has also worked hard to ensure registration of all cases in Delhi and preferred to work harder on heinous crimes rather than property crimes

B S BASSI: Crime detection has not fallen in Delhi, registration of cases has increased. Crime detection was 53 per cent in 2012; 48 per cent in 2013; in 2014, 29 per cent; and in 2015, 27 per cent. That means things have stablilised. We know the real extent of our capacity to detect cases. That is why I started by saying that we are not able to solve 80 per cent of your theft cases. And in the 20 per cent cases which we detect, recovery of property is in hardly 4 to 5 per cent. So if you lose something in a theft in your house, there is a good chance cops will not be able to solve the case. So better go in for some better security measures at your homes, surveillance systems. Kindly go in for insurance. Don’t think B S Bassi, or for that matter any cop, will be able to detect your case. Don’t keep very expensive things at your home.

… The conviction rate in Delhi in 2010 was 56 per cent; 2011, 53 per cent; 2012, 54 per cent; 2013, 53 per cent; 2014, 47 per cent. So it is almost similar, while many more cases are being registered. That means many more criminals are being caught, also more criminals are getting convicted.

Watch | Delhi police commissioner B S Bassi on JNU row

Muzamil Jaleel: You are in the news over the JNU sedition case. How has this case — of five-six young people shouting slogans inside a university — become a priority area when so many cases go undetected?

Whenever any serious crime is registered, that is a priority… Sedition, the way that incident occurred, it is an open-and-shut case, that in any case will not go undetected. It is not that someone came in the dead of night, picked up a car, nobody has seen him, and that person has disappeared. In this case, a group of persons formed an unlawful assembly, indulged in a technical riot. You see, if they had only broken each other’s head, my case would have been under Sections 147, 148, 149, 323, 324 etc, which otherwise would have been known as rioting. It’s an open-and-shut case because the persons are well-known to the complainant, the security personnel, or video footage is available, and people can identify those who were part of that assembly. Here the unlawful assembly also engaged in an act covered under Section 124A of the IPC. It is an extremely easy case. But it has assumed importance because it is a human interest story or a sensationalist story or a political story, whatever you call it.

We have nothing against JNU. But that act, on that particular day, constituted a grave offence defined by Section 124A. A section which was declared valid by the Constitution… It is a question of time before we catch the other persons too.

Muzamil Jaleel: So what happened in JNU was a heinous crime?

The case is grave, no doubt about that. It is not an ordinary case. It would have been an ordinary case if the students had performed an unlawful assembly and broken each other’s head. But in this case certain individuals have indulged in seditious sloganeering and delivered seditious speeches. Society is surviving because we all respect democratic norms, we respect our Constitution. If all of us start disrespecting our Constitution, the country will be destroyed. I am going to crack this case because I know these are the guys who have done it.

Watch | JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar recalling the assault on him at Patiala House court

Muzamil Jaleel: Are you facing any political pressure?

I wish when police registered the case, all had waited for police to do its job. Unfortunately for us, not only the students concerned, but others outside the student community also joined. The thing has been made bigger than the event. What is the event? A group of students indulged in seditious activity. Who has to deal with that seditious activity? The university authorities and police. As a police officer, we registered a case. Society as a whole should have cooperated with us, but some people are questioning our motives. I urge them to read Section 124 of the IPC. I urge them to read the Kedar Nath judgment of 1962 (Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar). And after that, they should decide, should they question the motives of police, or should they keep quiet.

As far as police are concerned, we are under no political pressure. We have taken our own decisions at Patiala House, we have taken our own decision on the JNU campus after Umar (Khalid) and (Anirban) Bhattacharya surfaced. We decided not to enter JNU because prudent police conventions advised me that I should not enter an educational institution unless I am permitted to enter by the university authorities or there is an imminent danger to life or property.

At Patiala House, prudent policing practices suggested that to maintain law and order (we do not use force)… That is why the journalists who were unfortunately hammered — if I may use the word — were able to cover the event even after that. Good we didn’t use teargas or lathi, otherwise there would have been mayhem. We were able to manage the situation with least damage… The journalists were able to continue to cover the event.

Muzamil Jaleel: The general understanding is that Mr Bassi is retiring, he wants a post-retirement job, he is working at the behest of the BJP. That is why I am asking you about the political dimension.

A police officer could not have acted otherwise. At Patiala House, use of force was the last option. I can tell you, not only at Patitala House, if you have a problem anywhere else… Tomorrow, if there is a situation at The Indian Express office, in the first phase, if police start using force, the trouble creators will run away and persons like you or maybe some others, you will think, ‘I have not done anything wrong, why will police beat me?’… My problem is that my prudent policing practices also tell me that I should have some space to chase away trouble creators… If I have no such place, it will turn into nothing but Jallianwalla Bagh…

Use of teargas, lathi or any other means at Patiala House would have created a situation where people would have had no place to escape… it is a confined place. So, there is no other way a police officer could have acted unless there was imminent danger to life or property.

Ragini Verma: It was not just once, journalists were beaten up twice. How is that to be explained? 

I do agree, the incident occurred, but police presence enabled the journalists to continue with their coverage of the event. Were you able to continue with your coverage or not?

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Raj Kamal Jha: Is there anything that you regret about the role of police that day? Something that you would have done differently?

We always try to learn lessons from every event… For instance, when we had to present Umar (Khalid) before the court, we requested the court to hold proceedings at the police station…

Kaunain M Sheriff: Ensuring security of journalists is nothing new for Delhi Police, including at Patiala House. I have been covering the cases of (terror accused) Abdul Karim Tunda and Jagtar Singh Hawara (convicted for killing former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh). More than a hundred supporters of Hawara come for his every hearing and the mob is more frenzied. Each step is recorded, each policeman is armed. Here, nothing was recorded by the Delhi Police. The next day, some lawyers demanded to see our ID cards, saying ‘Delhi Police is not going to check them, we are’. Police just watched.

But you were able to continue with your coverage, right?

Kaunain M Sheriff: No, I could not. They told me not to take down anything — ‘Ismein kya likhna (What is there to write in this)?’. I had to report from what I remembered.

This matter is under the Honourable Supreme Court of India’s jurisdiction, so I will not be able to give you any details. The court gave directions that this many lawyers, journalists and friends and relatives of the accused would be allowed. The checking was as per pre-decided strategy. There are different versions, and I do not want to go into the details.

But the tensions of 17th (when Kanhaiya was assaulted at Patiala House) were of a different nature than those examples you mention. You see when Hawara comes, his supporters and onlookers come. But here there were no onlookers, only a few supporters and a large group of men raising anti-accused slogans.

Kanhaiya was accompanied not by one or two persons but by a team of cops, headed by two assistant commissioners of police. If you see the footage, all the persons surrounding him were cops. Only thing is, because of their anxiety to take him to the court premises speedily, he was being pulled by cops themselves. He was under some trauma because of that. Then, if a person loses his slipper, it is a reflex to look for it. But if someone is pulling you from the other side, you are going to get worried.

No footage has come to our notice where he is being thrashed. This is what my officers have told me. As per allegations, he was thrashed on a number of occasions. But all those surrounding him in the footage are cops in uniform and plainclothes.

… I find it somewhat intriguing that focus is being lost from the main event. The main event was at JNU. Certain individuals and groups indulged in an unacceptable activity that no democratic society can tolerate. And we are wasting our time on subsidiary events.

Unni Rajen Shanker: Is talking about journalists being beaten up a waste of time?

I am not saying that. But the seditious assertions? And some people were suggesting that in the past, these events were ignored. It was wrong. But this time, rightly, cognisance has been taken. In future, those with tendency of indulging in those activities will (show) deterrence.

Maneesh Chhibber: You mentioned the Kedar Nath judgment. Do you think what happened at JNU was in accordance with that judgment?

The main content of Section 124A is ‘Bringing in hatred or contempt or exciting disaffection towards State by words, or signs or visible representations’. The definition is very complicated. So we need to redefine the word sedition to some intelligible meaning so that common people will know what sedition means and it will not give an excuse to unscrupulous elements to claim what they did was not seditious… I would request if you could urge intellectuals and suggest to the Law Commission to examine the word sedition. Because the conditions in India do not warrant a departure from the law of sedition. We are facing a lot of problems in the Northeast, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and J&K. We need to have a law to deal with anti-national activities and anti-national assertions because we need to nip trouble in the bud.

Mayura Janwalkar: How would you rate one year of the Aam Aadmi Party government?

I wish you would ask me this question on March 1, because it won’t be charitable on my part to be very truthful (on it).

One area where I have some regret… the AAP promised to install some 10 to 15 lakh cameras in Delhi. As a police officer, I hope that happens.

Another thing is that newspapers suggest (Deputy CM) Mr Manish Sisodia is paying a lot of attention to schools. I have studied in a government school and a corporation school and I know their problems. I could go to Shri Ram College of Commerce. For the past several years, not one student has gone from a government school to that college…

Pritha Chatterjee: While police were looking for Umar Khalid and friends, a lot of journalists got calls and some were paid even home visits. Did you know these people being questioned were journalists?

When you are investigating a case, you do many things. It will not be fair to share all the details. Whatever we do, we do within the confines of the law and the Constitution.

Shalini Langer: You called what happened at JNU a ‘technical riot’. What does a ‘technical riot’ mean?

It was a ‘technical riot’. Because when you say ‘riot’, it means arson and people’s heads are broken…

Kedar Nagarajan: Summons were issued to Sadiq Naqvi, one of the journalists who knew Umar Khalid. He was in Bijnor at the time, and was asked to come to Delhi for questioning. Considering the attack on journalists at Patiala House too, what is the guarantee reporters are free to report on this case?

Naqvi was interrogated for valid reasons and within the purview of the law. I am happy that he and his family cooperated with us. See, if there is a commotion, you have to ask bystanders (if they saw something). When we ask journalists, we are seeking their assistance to complete the chain of events in this grave crime. An investigating officer’s job is to contact anybody and everybody who can throw light on the events.

Abhishek Angad: How did you get embroiled in the fake Twitter account reply?

You see, I am a new Twitter user. I still have to learn many of the dimensions. Unfortunately, I saw a tweet, re-tweeted by the honourable CM (Arvind Kejriwal), that needed a response. It questioned the integrity of police, my personal integrity. It was necessary for me to put it in perspective, that ‘we need no certificate from self-styled appraisers’.

The tweet said, ‘Bassi jab kehata hai ki khaki ki izzat karte hai, pata nahin vardi ya knicker’… It is an innuendo, you all know it. I am not a fool. When you click ‘reply’, both names come (I didn’t know this). With great difficulty, I typed @arv.kejriwal, I did not see all the others…

When I saw the re-tweet, I could not accept what he was saying. My commitment is to the Constitution, nation and the truth… I conveyed to the honourable CM my commitment… How can a person in a responsible position question the integrity of a person who has been fighting crime and terrorists for the last 39 years? The honourable CM should not have done this.

Abhishek Angad: What about the other tweet, related to Hafiz Saeed?

That content was extremely anti-national. I am not concerned whether it was fake or genuine or parody or whatever. The objective was that youth should not be swayed by that seditious tweet.

Muzamil Jaleel: In this JNU episode, did it occur to you to call these students yourself and the university authorities? Do you actually think they are a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India?

That is why we believed in the appeal which was issued by Mr Kanhaiya (the appeal said he had faith in the Constitution, does not support anti-national activities, and that he had opposed anti-national slogans at JNU). It is very unfortunate that he accused police of forcing him to write that appeal later. No democratic nation can afford such anti-national activity. We are lucky that because of our constitutional values, we are sitting here and discussing in this fashion.

Agar ham desh ke tukde tukde kar denge aur desh ki barbaadi kar denge (If we break the country into pieces, destroy it), if we create conditions that are there in certain isolated pockets of Chhattisgarh, in Delhi and Ludhiana and Chandigarh, then in my opinion, the country will be finished.

Debate within the constitutional norms, yes. But if it is an anti-national activity, then it doesn’t remain debate. When something is in the domain of sedition, any right-thinking individual should condemn it and must support police in taking very strict action.

Maneesh Chhibber: Will you be entering politics?

The advantage is that 39 years I was in police, so I have been in public life. You get used to fighting injustice.

(Transcribed by ENS, Delhi)

 

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