Delhi Police must be held accountable for the unseemly spectacle on the streets of the national capital on Wednesday following the suicide of a retired jawan, Ram Kishan Grewal. In a brazenly heavyhanded way, police prevented administrators and politicians, among them Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia, Labour Minister Gopal Rai and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, from meeting relatives of the deceased soldier at the hospital and detained them in various city thanas later.
It is outrageous that a state chief minister who calls on a family to offer condolences should be detained for over five hours and that two of his ministerial colleagues should be bundled into a police bus and hauled to a thana. Since Delhi Police reports to the Union home ministry, the Centre must explain the conduct of the police personnel. Did the officer who led the action consult his superiors before ordering the arbitrary detention of the chief minister? Was Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor kept in the loop when action was ordered against ministers and MLAs?
By all accounts, the police misconduct and overreach on Wednesday is a fallout of the force having been cast in the role of an adversary of the elected government in Delhi. The actions of Delhi Police in the past one year have raised disturbing questions about its conduct and professionalism. They have invited accusations that the force has become a tool in the hands of its political masters — in the Centre — to harass political rivals. The several cases filed against Aam Aadmi Party politicians, many on flimsy grounds, and the numerous arrests — a dozen AAP MLAs have been arrested at least once by Delhi Police — have created the perception that the force is executing a partisan political agenda. Such politicisation of a police force can have disastrous systemic consequences. The onus is on the political leadership — specifically, the Union home ministry — to urgently initiate a course correction. The credibility of the force, the people’s trust and faith in it, is at stake.
If the Delhi Police acted, as it claims, to contain the political fallout of the suicide — Grewal, who served in the army for three decades, and had become the first Dalit surpanch of his village in Haryana, allegedly consumed poison to protest delay in the implementation of the OROP (One Rank-One Pension) policy — it has spectacularly failed. Grewal’s cremation in his village on Thursday was a full-fledged political event with many opposition leaders in attendance. What should have been a sobering moment was reduced to an opportunity for parties to score points against each other. For that, the Centre must take a large part of the blame.