Baba and the black sheep

I wish the media would do some soul-searching. One TV reporter was giving inaccurate news, saying that the protesters were inciting violence, whereas it was the work of a few anti-social elements.

Much has happened in the last 48 hours. While it would be repetitive to list all the steps already announced and being taken by the UPA government with regard to checking crime against women, it is clear that people’s spontaneous agitation across the country, demanding a safer, better India for women, has initiated a change for the better.

I think I speak for everyone in wishing total recovery to the 23-year-old girl I like to call Nirbhaya. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.
I was disgusted with the events at India Gate on Monday when the peaceful protest got hijacked by students’ unions from various political parties. Civil activists marked their attendance and Baba Ramdev, with his convoy of 23 vehicles and the former Army Chief, breezed in and out.
I could see disaster waiting to happen the moment two leading English news channels started reporting that groups of anti-social elements were mixing with the crowd. Soon they took over and vandalised public property and provoked the police into the use of water cannons, lathicharge and teargas. Sadly, many got carried away and innocent youth agitating peacefully got caught in the crossfire.
The Delhi police commissioner and his force are under attack — some officers have been suspended while others may face inquiry. In any situation the good, the bad and the ugly exist. Everything was not right, but if we think calmly then we will see the speed with which many acted, in taking the victims to the hospital and arresting all six accused within 72 hours.
Also look at the other facts. Police constable Subhash Chand Tomar died on Tuesday and many others were seriously injured. Is this criminal behaviour justified?
We have TV coverage as evidence and photographs in many newspapers show criminal elements standing on top of overturned buses and cars. Should these men not be acted against? I think the police along with the media should track down these cowards and they should be named and shamed before their families and friends.
We all watched Baba Ramdev standing on the top of a bus and leading a procession of 23 vehicles. Why were these allowed to come near India Gate? Hooligans who entered the India Gate area were armed with hockey sticks and knives and we saw buses and ambulances being stoned and abusive language being used against women. Some women have also alleged molestation. Riot cases have been filed against the former Army Chief and Baba Ramdev and transcripts and evidence will soon be available of what was said and done.
I wish the media would do some soul-searching, especially one TV channel which was giving inaccurate news. The TV reporter said that the protesters were inciting violence whereas it was the work of a few anti-social elements. Transcripts should be given to the appropriate authority as this is not the time to play politics. I wonder how many in the media or the protesters have taken the trouble to visit the 78 policemen injured.
During my tenure as internal security minister in the 1980s, I witnessed a great deal of suffering because of a strong burst of terrorist activity in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. We had very heavy casualties in the police and para-military and for me the most harrowing task was to attend parades and after that award medals and certificates to the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters for their men killed in action. Many perished. Few people realise how much men and women in “uniform” suffer, or the significance of their supreme sacrifice. They all have families just like ours and that is why I think it is necessary to take a balanced view of the situation before we pass judgment on events.

Elections are over both in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, both throwing up important trends for the future. All the negatives we experience every day in the media were not reflected in the results and the loud and clear message was that strong anti-incumbency trends exist. In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress won and Virbhadra Singh, who led the party to this victory, has been rightly selected for the sixth time as the state’s chief minister. The former chief minister, P.K. Dhumal of the BJP, was a good man but not good enough to handle the anti-incumbency trends. Given the clear warning in this for both the BJP and the Congress, during Assembly elections in 2013, the BJP will need a miracle to win in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and the Congress will have a similar problem in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi.
The Gujarat result and a record third term for chief minister Narendra Modi was based on his governance skills. All the hype generated raised expectation levels to 120-130 seats, but I think the Gujarat chief minister was aware of the anti-incumbency factor and with that in mind this was a very good win. But the Gujarat leader will plan his moves very carefully as he looks to the future. The BJP has to resolve its issues at the “top” before it moves forward.

The writer is a former Union minister

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