Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Building A Culture Of Sanity, Sensibility

Building A Culture Of Sanity, Sensibility
by Nandkumar Kamat

ALTHOUGH the Congress party pledged to form a state human rights commission (SHRC) in its 2007 assembly election manifesto, there is hesitation on the part of the state government. I tried to impress on the CM, Mr Kamat the urgent need of having such a commission exclusively for Goa but there is a fear among a certain section of the politicians that the SHRC may create trouble for them. I wrote an article in this column to champion SHRC. But there was no support from the politicians, the NGOs, the activists and the intellectuals. So it was a pleasant surprise that, suddenly none other than the MLA of Taleigao, Mr Monserrate should come out with a demand in this regard after getting a bitter personal taste of the high handedness of the police.

He has seen for himself how the state can overstep certain norms and how it can mistreat even innocent family members not connected with the issue. If he now champions the case of SHRC it would be good for Goa. Over past few years I have seen the traumatization and the brutalization of the Goan society. The human rights of common people and the politicians are not different. Readers may recall the protests by two environmental activists at Santa Inez who were merely protesting peacefully against the slaughter of a mango tree which stood in the middle of the road. Despite their appeal to save the tree they were ordered to be arrested. Their constitutional duties under article 51 and human rights were not respected. The misaligned traffic circle which has now come up in the place of the slaughtered tree has become a virtual death trap. So what was then really achieved by cutting the tree and ordering the arrest of law abiding citizens?

Absurdity is the other name of Goa’s politics if we see the nature of the events which took place last week in Panaji and Taleigao and if we analyse the various types of remarks and statements issued by politicians of different colours. They are slowly poisoning the Goan body politic with the virus of violence. There was total intelligence failure on the part of the Goa police. It appears that there are more paid informers of the underworld of Goa inside the Goa administration than the informers paid or planted by the police to keep a watch on the movements of anti-social elements. No lessons have been learnt from the shameful and notorious anti muslim riots which had taken place at Sanvordem. Otherwise it is difficult to explain the unpreparedness of Panaji Police to pre-emptively face the violent mob which took almost an hour to march from Taleigao to the Panaji Police station. I can sum up the past week’s incidents in just one sentence- the forces created by the parallel economy of Goa have now come of age. The system legitimatised by the post statehood Goan society is responsible for such events. Once the money from parallel economy begins to flow in politics it creates extraordinary –‘ larger than life’ personalities. Actually the state government should have gladly accepted the demand for judicial inquiry into the whole incident because it would have also given the people an opportunity to come forward and expose various networks.

However, the government may not yield to this demand because the judicial inquiry may throw up several findings unpalatable to the politicians and the bureaucracy. The genesis of last week’s violent incidents lies in the culture of extortionism which is spreading its’ tentacles in Goa. It would only breed more and more violence. Common people do not feel secure under such an environment influenced by ruthless people having their roots in parallel economy. The state also has created a culture of discrimination, partiality and favoritism. If the well wishers of late photojournalist, Sushant Naik were not to peacefully storm the Panaji police station it is doubtful whether the police would have ever arrested the prime suspect.

The Goa Police have often failed to record the genuine complaints of people harassed or looted by anti social elements. Many such troublemakers roam freely without the police ever taking them into custody. But the common man is powerless. He would think ten times before gathering a mob and marching to a police station. Despite the legendary mistrust the people of Goa still respect the men in Khaki. But the future is uncertain. The men in Khaki are supposed to be protectors of the human rights of people as well as the politicians. Past week’s incidents have shown that the Police may be more interested in protecting themselves and in projecting their power instead of focusing their energies on crime prevention. The powerful parallel economy of Goa has grown to monstrous proportions under their very nose. That’s why the crime prevention has been unsuccessful in Goa. On the contrary forces created by the parallel economy are now striking at the very roots of the state.

The police need a moral fiber stronger than the politicians to strike at the very roots of this virus in a consistent and non compromising manner. Merely retaliating against an ex-minister, a mayor and a Zilla panchayat ex chairman- which are relatively soft targets indicates that the Police themselves are in dark about the real forces which are creating such situations. These forces have become so powerful that governance in Goa has now become a residual function under their influence. It is a nightmarish situation which neither the leaders of Congress, NCP, BJP or MGP, UGDP would admit. A change in the government would not automatically change the landscape of the crime or the contours of the parallel economy. The next attack on some other police station may be more violent and brutal. There is no mechanism in Goa which is strong enough to prevent recurrence of such violent incidents.

The solution for a society drifting towards violence is to usher in a culture of sanity and sensibility. That’s precisely the constitutional mandate given to the national and state human rights commissions. It is not important that badly shaken by the Police overreaction Mr Monserrate has now turned a champion for SHRC. People, politicians and police all have human rights-and none are above the constitution of India and the laws. The past week’s violent incidents need to open the eyes of the government. Goa can not be allowed to drift further and slide in the abyss of mindless violence either by the mobs or the Police. A system of checks and balances need to be installed. That’s why there is no substitute for a Goa state human rights commission. Its’ very formation would initiate a culture of sanity and sensibility.

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