EDITORIAL: A Dose Of One’s Own Medicine

The issue should be clear and that is the case involving an officer of the Assam Rifles and a sitting Judge of the Gauhati High Court, should not be interpreted as a clash between the para-military force and the Judiciary by any stretch of the imagination. Any attempt to do this would amount to forfeiting the opportunity to address the core issue at hand, which is respecting traffic rules and regulations. Apart from corruption, the tyranny unleashed by the ruling elites and the Babudom, has not only eroded the social values and ethics of the people here, but it has turned each and every rules and regulations on their heads.

As any sane person, with a modicum of self respect and dignity will say, the tyranny of the political elite comes to the forefront most often on the crowded roads of Imphal. And so it stands today that there is nothing wrong for the security forces, and this includes the Army, Assam Rifles, CRPF, BSF and the State police, to flout the one way traffic norms or  to park their heavy vehicles plumb in the middle of a busy road. Not only this, it has also gone to the swollen heads of some of these species, who come under the VIP tag, that they have the right of way and everyone should move aside so that they can move along smoothly, never mind the difficulties other motorists may be facing in negotiating through the traffic snarl. To put in bluntly, the perfect formula to spoil a man’s day is to be subjected to the whistles and barking orders of the escort party of some VIP to give them the right of way. The beacon light with the sirens screaming away at its top volume atop the vehicle of the VIP, only adds to the feeling that one is being treated as a lesser being.

It is the demeaning effect on one’s dignity and self respect that can shoot up the blood pressure of anyone, who is also in a hurry. We do not need to go into the details of who these VIPs or ruling elites are, but they are mostly from the political class, meaning the elected representatives of the people and it can get meaner if one is a Minister, the Babudom, who moves around in their chauffeured Ambassador cars and occupy the best rooms at the Secretariat as their offices and of course the security forces, who have come under the impression that muscle flexing is the best option to clear the way for their Saheb. It is against this backdrop that the confrontation between a Major of the Assam Rifles and a sitting Judge of the Gauhati High Court should be viewed and analyzed.

Many would say, and rightly so, that such a confrontation was just waiting to happen, since all those who occupy positions of power and authority love to throw their weight around, especially in public places like the roads of Imphal. We will desist from passing our comments on the incident, for that may invite the attention of the Court, but the question that everyone should be asking now is who the persons/officials are entitled to the right of way. Traffic rules and regulations in India have clearly laid down that right of way may be given to motorists who is taking a left turn at a crossing provided that there is no traffic signal at the turning point. Obviously this does not imply that this amounts to giving the right to bull doze one’s way through, especially if the traffic is heavy.

The rule of tyranny by the political elites and their Babus in the corridors of power have impacted on the social and political life of the people so much so that their sense of what is wrong and what is right has come under a cloud of uncertainty and doubt and this is not a healthy sign at all. It was not too long ago that the escort commander of a high profile MLA had the temerity to physically assault a man driving a van, because he had not given the right of way to the MLA and his gun toting security escort. It is therefore not surprising that the present case involves an officer of the Assam Rifles as well as the alleged verbal diatribes from the security escorts assigned to the Judge. The explanation given by the Assam Rifles that the Major was not aware of the protocol when he approached the Judge, sounds like a poor damage control exercise attempt. Or if it is really true that an officer of the rank of a Major in the Indian Army was not aware of the protocol, then it does not speak well of one of the largest military establishments in the world.

In many ways, what happened that day, that is on Wednesday, April 20, 2011, is nothing but a reflection of how social values and ethics have been distorted to such an extent that it has become difficult to distinguish between what is acceptable behavior and what is not unacceptable. What message are we conveying to our children when a representative of the people and a Minister to boot opened fire at a top judicial officer of the State and the matter is hushed up without taking it to its logical conclusion? What is the message that is being rung out, when a son of a Minister does not think twice about pulling out his licensed gun and shooting someone to death, ostensibly for some juvenile differences? Basically it all boils down to the question of how the ruling elites view the common people and their sentiments as well and there is nothing democratic about it.

If the people do not take this opportunity as the wakeup call and go about doing something positive, we will not be surprised to see if children of rival politicians engage in a full blown exchange of gunfire in front of the newly constructed Capitol Complex! What is needed is cultivating the culture of respecting fellow humans as equals, responsible application of the law and rules to all, irrespective of their positions and status and the realization on the part of the people that election is not the be all and end all of democracy, but is just another factor. There are other characteristics that go along with a democracy and this includes equality before the law and that no one should come under the impression that the road is their family heirloom just because they occupy an air conditioned office in the Secretariat or have a certain status by virtue of the uniform they wear.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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