Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rishi Raj Singh, APJ Abdul Kalam, and Democracy!

            Social media serves an important purpose by reflecting the unedited and unfiltered public opinion. One may agree or disagree with an opinion existing among the public, but it is critical to know the existence of such opinions.

            Rishi Raj Singh is an ADGP level officer of Kerala police. A man who follow unorthodox policing, Rishi Raj Singh has been a darling of the social media. Many a time, the support he received from the public was justified as the issues involved his taking on some or other entrenched and organized crime syndicate. His actions to uphold the rule of law and control the crimes in whatever field he may be working in, made him a kind of hero in many people’s eyes.

            The problem with deification of someone into a hero is that once given that status the fans are bound to seek excuses for rationalizing all his or her actions are heroic.  Just like in those movies, the hero can do no wrong. When a hero stalks and woman or use violence against his detractors it is all just part of the game! However, unlike the characters of action movies, individuals cannot be classified as hero and villain.  

             Perhaps this what happened when a large section of the social media extended full support to him when he failed to stand up and salute the Home Minister of the State when the latter arrived at a police function.  The Home Minister, being the political head of the Police forces, is, no doubt, the boss of the ADGP. It was also clarified by none other than the Chief of Kerala Police (DGP) that the police officers are required to stand up and salute when a minister walks in, into a public function.  

            Despite the clarification by DGP, social media continues to support Rishi Raj Singh.  Many excuses are presented to justify the indiscipline by a police officer. It was not surprising, given some of the public opinions already existing in some sections of Kerala. Not everyone in Kerala values the democracy or supremacy of political leadership. There are the right wingers who miss the ‘strong police’ that can stalk women or kill innocents, at will, just like in Gujarat. There are sections of dogmatic left that do not care for the democracy, in the first place. For them, democracy is only a means through which they can try and capture power. There is yet another group that yearns for the autocratic rule of Gulf countries as they think those countries are far more ‘efficient’ than a democratic India.  Then the usual anarchists, who will support anything and anyone that goes against the state and political leadership. There are the political opportunists who will support the officer as the minister happens to be a political opponent (thankfully, many saner voices from the opposite camp were not seen supporting the officer, in this instance).  Last but not the least, there are also those well meaning citizens who wants to support the officer since they think he has been wronged in the past by the state.

            I would like to deal with the last category of the opinion discussed above, in a little more detail.  I agree, the officer has been unceremoniously removed or transferred from many posts when his acts became too hot for the entrenched interests. Therefore, some people think that he has a right to show his contempt for the political leadership. However, as I indicated at the beginning we cannot classify individuals as heroes and villains and then rationalize all their actions based on our classification.  There may be hundreds of incidences where an officer is stopped from doing his right duty, for various reasons. There are also remedies available to him, in case he feels that he has been wronged. However, he cannot adopt indiscipline as a means for redressal of his perceived grievances. If such a thing is allowed to take place, every officer, soldier, or policeman will be justified in refusing to do his duty as perceived grievances exist in almost all cases.

            Perhaps, it is this well-meaning group discussed above, who sought to justify Rishi Raj Singh’s action by quoting Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. A quote attributed to Dr. Kalam was circulated widely through social media. It said, “If you salute your duty, you need not salute anybody, but if you pollute your duty, you have to salute everybody

            This quote appears to be a very convenient tool to justify the behavior of the officer.  However, what the people forget or conveniently ignore is that saluting the Home Minister itself was a part of the officer’s duty.  People are given uniform and the procedures like saluting for a specific purpose. I wouldn’t even dare to think what would happen if any soldier and policeman adopts this above quote to justify their indiscipline in the forces!

            I know this sounds childish, but let me demonstrate what Dr. Kalam said was not meant to be taken literally.  Dr. Kalam had been the President of this Country for five years. Saluting and receiving salute was part of his duty, just like in the case of Rishi Raj Singh.
Have you ever heard Dr. Kalam refusing to give or take salute since he believed that saluting is not necessary unless one is polluting his duty? Apparently not, as these pictures here clearly show!  
           In this picture, Dr. Kalam is seen saluting along with the three Chiefs of armed forces. I am sure none of them thought they are saluting because they have polluted their duty! 

Again, Dr. Kalam is seen receiving the salute. I am sure Dr. Kalam would not agree that all those, whose salute he was receiving and reciprocating had polluted their duties. 

            Let me conclude by saying that this episode is another reminder about how shallow is our feelings for democracy.  We have to inculcate a respect for democracy and its institutions. If we perceive them to corrupt or bad, there are in built remedies but those do not include glorifying indiscipline among police or armed forces.

“Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time” - Winston Churchill



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