An acquaintance holding a very high position in the police force in the capital city of India was lamenting that a policeman’s is a dog’s life in India. My sympathies lie with the police force. By and large, they are the public face of enforcement of law.
The law is created by us Indians for us, to safeguard us from us, we also have an enforcement machinery that enforces law on us. Seems very convoluted to me. Very illogical. But, there you are. That’s the truth across the world.
The enforcers are just doing their sworn duty.
If a senior and distinguished member of the force feels that way about the treatment meted out to the cops by the public, I shudder to think what the cop on the street must be thinking. How much of hatred he must be facing. How does he view the people he has sworn to protect? Does he care for them in spite of their obvious apathy to his duty?
But, this is not an article about the working conditions of the police force. That was only a background. The real question is, why is there so much defiance for the law in India?
In the midst of one of the biggest pandemics gripping the world, when a policeman asked a bunch of people to show their passes to enter a market in Patiala, they chopped his hand off. Chopped it off. Can there be a clearer instance of defiance of the law by citizens who think they are above the law?
A young protestor fired at and injured a policeman during a protest in February in Delhi and later said he had done it out of anger. A mob attacked the police in Assam when they sought to prohibit entry and crowding of markets to enforce Covid-19 protocols and police had to resort to firing in the air to stop the mob.
The home ministry had to make an announcement that violence against doctors and healthcare workers would be treated as a criminal offense punishable with imprisonment.
Why would we turn violent against our first line warriors against the pandemic? Two reasons: One, we consider ourselves above the normal machinations that impact a democratic society. ‘How dare they defile my surrounding after attending to COVID patients?’ Two, we as a people don’t have an idea of what a democratic society stands for.
What does this trend tell us? That in India, defiance of the law is considered to be a fashion statement. Forget the stray and isolated incidents of nepotism in law enforcement. That is a condition afflicting not just India, or every country in the world, it is a condition that humans in general suffer.
Law must be obeyed. Period. If it is despotic, challenge it in court. If is it draconian, challenge it in court. There is a justice delivery system in the country. Merely because the justice system is protracted, are we justified in taking the law into our own hands?
Obedience to law is the minimum guarantee that every citizen of a democracy gives to his or her country. Defiance with law is not to be romanticised as vigilantism. Instead it is a step leading to the destruction of a society. Vigilantism is only when society at large is impacted by dysfunctional law with no remedy to correct the injustices. In India, the justice delivery system is proactive. The country is governed by the rule of law. There are sufficient avenues for orderly challenge to nepotism.
In my book Fear of God, which is a thriller and entertainer by the way, a bunch of highly savvy people come together to put the fear of God into the corrupt. True, every case of corruption highlighted in the book is based on facts. Fiction invariably is based on facts.
But if there is a message in my book it is only that one must obey the law to be protected by it. Break the law and be answerable to it. If you think you are above the law, then there is only fear of God.
If Mahatma Gandhi defied the law, it was because it was the law of an alien power to exploit India. Defying our own laws just because we can and chopping off the hands of its enforcers means that we don’t have an understanding of democracy and we sell our votes to the highest bidder.
There are people in my neighbourhood affiliated to a certain political party who are in opposition today. They defy the lockdown, roam the streets without masks and party all night. How cheap is it to play politics at a time like this? Or, are we a bunch of ignorant upstarts fuelled by our own bloated egos to showcase ourselves as ‘connected to power’ and therefore above the law? I’ve asked you guys a lot of questions today. I will leave you to answer them.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy!
The writer is the author of a bestselling novel, ‘Fear of God’.