Law and order should not be part of populist politics, writes Sayantan Ghosh

When a government denies security to people, especially those who support opposition political parties, questions about the government's motives arise. The AAP has done remarkable work in Delhi when it comes to education, healthcare, and other sectors of public welfare, but they are still fairly new when it comes to law and order. The policy here should be to take it slow and not be drastic.

Sayantan GhoshUpdated: Wednesday, June 01, 2022, 09:39 AM IST
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Indian Youth Congress (IYC) President Srinivas BV during a candlelight march by party activists in the memory of Punjabi singer and Congress leader Sidhu Moose Wala, who was shot dead on Sunday, in New Delhi, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 | Photo: PTI

The murder of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala in broad daylight in Punjab within 24 hours of his security degradation raises many questions. It is crucial to make some direct points in terms of politics and governance related to the internal security of a state. The Punjab government, led by the Aam Aadmi Party, will be held accountable for the condition of law and order in the state. Every person in India has the right to life. Making a state's internal security a part of populist politics is thus despicable and a criminal offence committed by the state of Punjab under Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

Punjab has a violent past. It took generations to come out of the shadows of those lurking criminal days. From every government and political party, Punjab has expected peace and harmony. But at the end of the day, the state has not achieved much. Today, it is a new government from which people have high hopes. But, what is the outcome of the rules within the first three months? But before we get to 2022, let's look back at 2017.

Punjabis opted for a change in 2017. Unfortunately, the change did not materialise. It was impossible to carry on business as usual after the alleged changes failed to overcome precedents. Punjabis yearned for economic development, financial freedom, and social security for the poor and elderly. The needs of the hour were the development of education, health care, generating jobs, and economic relief for farmers. Punjab has always prioritised social-religious unity over separatism of any kind.

The Congress party miserably failed to fulfil these basic expectations of the electorate. The Grand Old Party became busy with their infighting and the Punjabis felt betrayed. People rejected all the traditional political parties of Punjab and voted for AAP. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP received a landslide victory.

During the election campaign, the AAP demonstrated its commitment to change. They also displayed the success of the Delhi model. Punjabis trusted them and did not vote along caste or communal lines. After coming to power, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann started taking steps to fulfil the promises of the AAP.

However, a question has arisen: is the change genuine? Perhaps it is too soon to conclude, but the government should stay focused on its promise of change, rejecting precedents that violate the rule of law. The government should also be self-contained, with no interference from political leaders from other states. The civil servants and the police force must be kept for the development and protection of Punjab. It is not the work of the police force to chase hatemongers outside Punjab for making comments against the chief of the ruling party who belongs to another state.

Here comes the issue of law and order in Punjab. After the Bhagwant Mann government came into power, several incidents of crime took place in Punjab. The issue here is not only the crime but also the background of these incidents. For example, a clash occurred on April 29 between a pro-Khalistan group and the Shiv Sena (Bal Thackery) in Patiala. Similarly, a rocket-propelled grenade was thrown at the Punjab Police Intelligence Headquarters in Mohali. In this case, the Punjab police itself has claimed that pro-Khalistan groups and even the ISI of Pakistan are involved. In the case of Sidhu Moose Wala's murder, the background is a gang war. But it is pertinent to note that he was a Congress politician as well and fought in the last assembly election. He lost to the AAP candidate, Vijay Singla. So, these issues are highly political and are part of a much bigger threat to both the state of Punjab and India.

Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, also known as Sidhu Moose Wala, was one of 424 people whose security was withdrawn or reduced by the Punjab Police on Saturday. The Aam Aadmi Party government of Punjab and the police have maintained that this attack on the singer was done by Canada-based gangster Lawrence Bishnoi. The Punjab police have also made arrests for this incident. But the Aam Aadmi Party government and Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann will have to answer a lot of questions in terms of the law and order situation in Punjab. Arresting the culprits and deterioration of the law and order situation are two different things. Arresting a criminal for committing a crime is a reaction to an action that is much more grave.

As a political party, the Aam Aadmi Party has been wondering why the opposition and the citizens were questioning the government for the murder of Moose Wala. The answer is direct. Law and order is a state subject as per the Indian constitution and this includes the responsibility of providing security to VIPs. If the AAP government believes that it is not the job of the state to provide security to the VIPs, then they must take a legislative decision on this.

Unless any such legislative move is taken by the AAP, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs, the state will have to ensure the security of the VIPs based on threat perceptions. Here, another pertinent question would be whether Bhagwant Singh Mann received intelligence clearance to withdraw the security of these 423 people. If the clearance was given, then why was it later restored to Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh?

Yes, there are indeed several examples of providing security to VIPs just to show off their political importance. However, when a government denies security to a large number of people, especially those who support opposition political parties, questions about the government's motives arise.

The Aam Aadmi Party has thumped their chest for putting an end to the VIP culture by removing security from several people. It is important to understand that political populism is a great way of retaining power or gaining power. But if the populist stance includes playing with the internal security of a state, then it will do more harm than good. The AAP has done remarkable work in Delhi when it comes to education, healthcare, and other sectors of public welfare, but they are still fairly new when it comes to law and order. The policy here should be to take it slow and not be drastic.



(The author is an independent journalist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre. Views expressed are entirely personal. He tweets as @sayantan_gh)

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