Bulldozers at work in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, April 13, 2022, 08:18 AM IST
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Bulldozers have become a metaphor for the government’s high-handedness. It was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who proved their effectiveness to garner votes. Of course, he earned the sobriquet of “Bulldozer Baba." While his detractors thought that the moniker would deprive him of a substantial number of votes, the fact is that the heavy-duty machine became a symbol of his effectiveness. Small wonder that during the election campaign itself, he openly said that the bulldozers had gone for servicing and that once the results came out on March 10, they would once again be on active duty. He was not just boasting. The administration began using bulldozers once it became clear that he would return as Chief Minister. Since March 25, when he was sworn in, the bulldozers have been at work. In an alleged rape case, the police arrived at the house of the accused, who was hiding, with a bulldozer and removed two steps of the staircase leading to his double-storied house. The police warned the neighbours of the accused that if any of them were seen helping him evade arrest, their houses, too, would be bulldozed. Nobody knows on what basis the policemen threatened to bulldoze the house. The Criminal Procedure Code does not grant the police any right to destroy a house, except under the due process of law. During Yogi’s first term, he used the machine against many whom his administration declared as anti-social elements. It is a different matter that most of the victims belonged to a particular community. The use of bulldozers was an extra-constitutional act but many saw it as an act of quick justice. The electoral victory has emboldened the Baba to be more ruthless and brazen in the use of the weapon. Forget forever the concept that everybody was considered innocent till he was proven guilty under the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence that, by and large, India followed. Taking his cue from Yogi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has, of late, been employing bulldozers for “law and order” duties. The machines were, first, used against the houses of a few, who were accused of terrorism in Gujarat. Incidentally, none of them was proved guilty of terrorism. But that did not prevent the MP government from acting as the accuser, the judge, and the executioner when it demolished their houses. Khargone in Madhya Pradesh witnessed violence on the Ram Navami day when a mob indulged in provocative acts in front of mosques and Muslim areas. True, there was pelting of stones, injuring policemen. It has not been proved as to who threw the stone and under what situation. The stone-throwing could have been done by the fifth columnists who are always itching for trouble.

Whatever be the truth, the police arrived there with bulldozers and destroyed the houses and shops that stood on a Masjid property. Some Hindu residents of the area also lost their houses when they came under the wheels of the bulldozers. In doing so, the government has declared that the structures which were destroyed were illegal. And to make the government’s intention clear, the home minister has said that from whichever house a stone arose, it would face demolition. Social media is full of videos showing lumpen elements holding saffron flags making provocative slogans in front of mosques and even erecting saffron flags on their minarets. But no bulldozer has been used against such hot-headed characters who caused the nation infamy on a day celebrated in the name of Maryada Purushothama, as Lord Ram was benignly called.

If justice can be served through the use of bulldozers, there is no need for any judicial system. Why waste money on courts from the lowest to the highest Supreme Court? Only a fraction of the cost is needed to buy bulldozers and employ them against anyone whom the police name in an FIR. Nothing gives a person — rich or poor — greater security than a house. It is second only to the family to which he or she belongs. And if the police can destroy a house in the name of teaching a lesson to the house owner, it will mark the end of what is known as the rule of law. The irony is that despite the state governments taking the law into their own hands, the judicial system is yet to respond effectively. Far from that, when a judge in Uttar Pradesh sat in front of the bulldozer that had come to usurp a piece of land that belonged to his father, the judge was removed from his post. If anything, it is a signal to the people that anyone who protests against the use of bulldozers risks punitive action. As well-established systems are in a state of retreat, the common man finds that there are fewer and fewer doors to knock on.

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