However you look at last Friday’s spectacle of the police force of three states slugging it out publicly on a matter which was too petty to warrant even casual notice by anyone was a poor advertisement for what we have made of our democratic system. Instead of being the dutiful servants of the Constitution, the police, like much of the rest of the state paraphernalia, have been reduced to being the handmaiden of the ruling politicians. In this case, the ball was set rolling by that self-styled messiah of new politics. The AAP supremo felt peeved by a rather sharp tweet by the Delhi BJP gadfly, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga. After the Delhi Chief Minister had mocked the BJP for seeking exemption of tax for the film, The Kashmir Files, asking its producers instead to put the much-talked-about docu-drama on YouTube, the Delhi BJP spokesperson tweeted that the Delhi CM would not be 'allowed to sleep in peace’ till he apologised for insulting the Kashmiri Pandits who were violently driven out of their ancestral homes. The fact that the AAP was now in power in Punjab led Kejriwal to have one of his minions lodge a police complaint, accusing Bagga of issuing a threat to his life, which of course was a patent lie. But then, Kejriwal is no different from other politicians, never mind his pretence of ushering in a new era in politics. FIRs were also registered in Punjab against at least three other critics of Kejriwal, all three residing outside the state. Indeed, the mind boggles at the thought of what if the Delhi Police, a B-category state, were under the Delhi Chief Minister.
So, when on Friday morning a strong posse of the Punjab Police showed up at the west Delhi house of Bagga, hurriedly bundling him into a vehicle, a chain of events was set in motion that spotlighted all that is wrong not only with the police but with everything else connected with the governance systems. The Punjab police cavalcade was 'waylaid’ by the Haryana Police midway before it could reach Mohali, the town where the frivolous case had been lodged. Quite clearly, without the go-ahead from the senior bosses in the central government, neither the police in Delhi nor in Haryana would have shown such dispatch as they did in this case. It so happens that both the police forces are under the BJP governments. The standoff ended when the attempt by the Punjab police to secure a belated judicial sanction for their raid in Delhi was summarily turned down by the State High Court. Against the laid-down procedure in cases of inter-state arrests, the Punjab Police had neither informed the Delhi Police nor had it armed itself with judicial permission for transit remand for Bagga.
Clearly, the idea was to 'teach a lesson’ to Bagga for his audacity to criticise Kejriwal. Such petty-mindedness shows what sort of man the AAP boss really is. Even while conceding that Bagga is known to be aggressive in his comments, and often in action, having once slapped the activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, misusing the police for exacting revenge showed the AAP chief in poor light. As it is, aside from the freebies such as free water and power, there is increasingly less and less to attract voters to AAP, though it won by default due to the disenchantment of the Punjab voters against the old and established Congress Party and the Akalis. The Punjab voter has reason to feel angry at the abuse of the state police. As it is, there are far more important things for the police to go after such as preventing the smuggling and distribution of illicit drugs that have made addicts of even a large number of minors in the state. So widespread is the drug menace that it is now affecting the general health of the population and hurting its socio-economic growth. It is inconceivable that without the complicity and/or failure of the police smuggling and street-level distribution of drugs would be so widely prevalent. But if the priority of the police is to run errands for their new political masters instead of going after the criminal drug mafias, there can be no hope for redemption. What was supposed to be a new beginning in the border state of Punjab, once justifiably known for its muscular culture and record recruitments in the armed forces, has turned out to be false dawn under Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann who is already reduced to being no more than a puppet in the hands of the scheming Kejriwal.