Wednesday night’s violence in Musheerabad locality was waiting to happen.
Though the police moved in quickly to prevent communal clashes from spreading to other sensitive areas, an incident of arson was reported in the adjoining Chilkalguda, while a policeman’s vehicle was burnt in Mangalhat. Other communally sensitive areas were tense, but nothing untoward happened providentially.
There are a variety of factors that have contributed to the Musheerabad incidents, which cannot be dismissed as isolated ones. The minority community has been visibly anxious over the flexing of muscles by various Hindutva organisations on the issue of prevention of cow slaughter before Bakrid.
They seem to have nurtured apprehensions over the partiality of the police force and suspected them of supporting the other side as the police units seized nearly 400 heads of cattle being transported into the twin cities in the last few days.
The police action in seizing cattle led to a belief among the minorities that they were supporting the majority community. However, police say they were only trying to enforce the law that prohibits slaughter of cows.
Those interested in enforcing the law had submitted representations for strict enforcement and not being satisfied with that, they formed vigilante teams to intercept vehicles. Police teams had to rush and seize the cattle whenever these vigilante groups intervened, fearing that such interventions could lead to clashes.
Police officials admit that they were indeed worried over last year’s developments in similar conditions. There were seven instances of communal attacks and killing of a person in various localities last year after Bakrid.
This year, they did not want that to be repeated and hence an attempt to enforce the law against cow slaughter. But apparently, the police has found themselves in a catch-22 situation. Added to this is the undercurrent of conflicting claims of appeasement nurtured by both the communities against the police and the politicians.
The other big problem the police faces nowadays is the lack of confidence levels among the field staff to take on-the-spot decisions to control developing situations, as they seem to be wavering in use of force.
Police officers argue that any action to tackle a violent situation could later be interpreted as “disproportionate use of force” and the officers and men are found fault with.
Like in any urban area, the entire hierarchy of police administration is available in the capital and the police officer on the field would rather seek instructions from his superiors on the wireless network first than initiate measures instantly.
“This is the damage done to the decision-making capabilities of field-level staff as the top brass and the politicians issue instructions on how an evolving situation is to be handled, be it a political agitation or a communal situation,” a senior officer admits candidly.