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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Whose face is the slap on?

Rajbir Deswal   April 14, 2014
First Published: 09:51 IST(14/4/2014) | Last Updated: 09:52 IST(14/4/2014)

I have no political sides to take, but I am sure if Gandhi had known the menace of slapping that was likely to visit India none too soon, he would never have suggested offering one’s other cheek to be slapped one more time. What is this nonsense? And why are we tolerating this? What is so great about politicians too who ‘forgive’ those who cross the line?

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Aren’t they themselves too saddened at the turn of events that they like to turn on and attribute to the facesaving and self-generated nuances of ‘frustration,’ ‘masterminding,’, ‘vested interests’, ‘opponents’ etc? Why do they not direct the accusation to the perpetrator who is available, spared or arrested.

We may be a democracy but such acts that cross the social and ethical lines, maybe not strictly in too serious a crime zone, make us really ‘too much of a democracy.’ Even if the American president was hurled a shoe at, doesn’t make the act undesirable in any way and letting it be written off the memory, or even history.

Daily occurrence of such incidents should have the legal, ethical, moralistic, and democratic minds wear their thinking cap one more time to address the problem.

The democracy demands leaders to connect with the masses. Hiatuses of any kind at any stage are not appreciated as far as contact with people is concerned. But what hurdles lie in the way of staying connected to that live wire of mutual sustenance, should be everyone’s concern. Such acts of bullying, browbeating and bludgeoning should not be allowed to be glossed over, for they are threatening and intimidating to the core. Even if you don’t have enough legal teeth to bite into this kind of ‘soft-criminality,’ you must write your rule book afresh.

Here is what is desired to invoke and adopt the cannons of the Rule of Law, especially in near-absence of a law to tackle this kind of intimidation, whether by slapping, abusing, inking, hurling shoes and other missiles, restraining and above all bullying and silencing.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has a provision in section 323 (simple hurt) to take care of incidents of slapping etc, but it is not a cognizable offence. The police generally combine it with another cognizable offence, mostly section 506 (criminal intimidation threatening with life), interweaving the ingredients as required in criminal intimidation to proceed in such cases.

The result generally is acquittal. Taking serious note of the slapping incidents, there is dire need to make a provision in the People’s Representation Act which should cover instances as taking place at least during the elections. Howsoever bright and bold a face one might put up, the slapping leaves a man enough ‘wronged,’ while others poke fun at his predicament.

To add insult to the injury, the media, especially electronic, are playing a nastier game. If the indents of slapping etc are recorded in their camera, it doesn’t endow them with an irresponsible repeat of the telecast with added effects. Once telecast as action blurred, they should refrain from repeating it any number of times. Let me tell you frankly that if the media stops repeat-reporting and effectplaying up such instances, they will stop. Even if one has to report a thing like that, there are sober ways of doing it rather than making some other big-wigs make their comments on the happening. They have their own axe to grind.

If at all you have to interview people, ask the right thinking lot.

There is no doubt about the fact that slapping does amount to use of force. It is physical violence. Psychologically, it leaves a man shattered. It does bring him down in his social and personal reckoning even if it is for a smaller duration. Rather than keeping quiet at such acts, one has to rise and question them. Some instrumentality of law, media regulation, pursuing at the instance of the victim, follow up by the state and general ridicule should stem the rot - otherwise, be ready to have another one on the other cheek.

The writer is an IPS officer of Haryana cadre. Views expressed are personal

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