18 August 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Cops slug it out to the beat of the poll drum

This looks like a nightmarish end to federalism as we know it. Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic death has turned into deplorable political one-upmanship. The unprecedented face-off between Bihar Police and Mumbai Police on the investigation of the suicide, has far reaching consequences. Many experts are of the view that sending a team of Bihar Police personnel to Mumbai after Rajput’s father filed a FIR demanding a probe into the “crime” was out of step. In India, police is a state subject and crimes are investigated by the police depending on where they occurred. If states start to interfere and go after crimes committed against their citizens in another state, we have a recipe for disaster. With the further likely addition of the CBI into this pot, the stew has grown thicker.

Had some worthies shown some prudence, we wouldn’t have had to see the DGPs of the two states slinging at each other on the TV news. TV newsrooms or Twitter are not the place to conduct a serious investigation into the death of a popular actor.

The case has grown much bigger with the respective state governments getting into the ring. Bihar CM has given his nod for a CBI probe, bowing to pressure from the actor’s family, while Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray refusing to give in to the demand. Both chief ministers have decided to stick by their police chiefs. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also opened an investigation into alleged money laundering. It is pretty much a no-holds-barred affair now, teetering dangerously on the edge of turning into a farce.

None of this would have merited so much focus and energy were it not for the specter of assembly elections in Bihar, due in October. The Bihari “sentiment” seems to have taken front stage, a thinly veiled euphemism for votes. The politicization of the police is one of those vexing issues that no amount of reforms have been able to deal with. The recent Vikas Dubey encounter and the police custodial deaths in Sathankulam town near Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu are already forgotten. The Sushant case will likely drag on until it is convenient for the powers that be. But sadly, if this lack of restraint and willful flouting of procedures by the police persists, it will end badly for the country.

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