It is unthinkable that a human being can urinate on a fellow human being and that, too, in India where the Constitution proclaims equality as one of its foundational principles. Yet, that is exactly what happened in Sidhi district in Madhya Pradesh, where a young and stout Pravesh Shukla was caught on camera urinating on a tribal youth. The man had no sense of shame or remorse while directing the urine to fall directly on his eyes and face. As reports go, he was able to influence the poor youth to give a statement that the incident never happened. By then the video clipping had gone viral. In poll-bound Madhya Pradesh where every vote counts, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had the political sense to realise that the incident could undermine the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tribal vote bank.
Though the BJP claimed that Shukla was not a party worker, there is evidence in the public domain that he went round as the representative of the local MLA, Kedarnath Shukla. Naturally enough, the Congress, which has high hopes in the state, began exploiting the dirty incident to the hilt. There are many districts in MP, including Sidhi, where the tribals have a sizable presence. One of the strong points in the BJP’s favour is that it enabled a tribal lady to become the President of the country. The inaction of the Central government in Manipur has already antagonised a large section of the tribal population. And to cap it, the tribals are upset over the Centre’s move to introduce a Uniform Civil Code, which, they know, will go against their traditional systems of life and practices.
If Chouhan became panicky over the video clip that was being viewed and shared by tens of thousands of social media users, he could not be blamed. To be fair to the chief minister, he did not bat an eyelid even once before asking the police to book Shukla under the strictest laws, including the National Security Act. That is how the police in Sidhi were forced to register cases under Sections 294 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code that deal with obscene acts and intentional insult. A case was also registered under the more stringent Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Shukla’s body language even after his arrest suggested that he was nonchalant. The people would have concluded that he would easily wriggle out of the case because of his political and other connections. Something else needed to be done to win public confidence.
That is how the chief minister himself went to Sidhi, apologised to the youth, washed his feet in public and gave him some gifts. He also stated that God resided in every human being and the government did not distinguish between the tribal and the non-tribal. What’s more, his police took the law into their own hands when they descended on the house where Shukla lived. First, they bulldozed an extension of his house. Later, the main part of the house was also demolished. His parents were crying when the police employed the bulldozer to raze down the house. Incidentally, the house was built by Shukla’s father. What right did the police have to behave in this manner?
Revenge, vendetta, vengeance etc have no place in the Constitutional scheme of things. If a person has done anything wrong, action should be taken under the law of the land. The police have the power to invoke whatever law is there on the statute against any person they consider guilty. It is for the court to conclude whether the person is guilty of the charge. Until then he is presumed to be innocent. Alas, police in states like UP and MP have been taking the law into their own hands. For instance, last year, the police demolished the houses of some Muslims in Khargone district because some Muslim children allegedly hurled stones at a Hindu procession. The chief minister can claim that his police do not distinguish between a Hindu criminal and a Muslim criminal. Alas, two wrongs do not make one right. As Mahatma Gandhi said, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind!