For the city's six-hour ordeal on Tuesday, no one is under arrest even 24 hours later.
The police reply to the blockade that held up the entire city's traffic is registering a case under the National Highway Act against “unidentified” workers of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), even though the party's senior leaders were spotted clearly. “Let us verify from the protest's video first," police commissioner Ishwar Singh said here on Wednesday.
Senior police officers also claim to have seen BSP state president Parkash Singh Jandali; state general Secretary Sukhwinder Kotli; and Parkash Bharti, in charge of party's affairs in Punjab, leading the agitation. Police inaction for six hours put hundreds of commuters to inconvenience. “We won't allow it in future,” said the police commissioner.
Reason for BSP protest
The BSP's Tuesday protest was to demand the arrest of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) councillor Balbir Singh Bittu, who is charged with murdering a Dalit youth in May 2009. Asked why Bittu was still free, police commissioner Ishwar Singh said: "I have just joined as commissioner, let me study the case.”
“On May 22, 2009, during post-Vienna-incident violence, councillor Bittu had opened fire on Dalit youth Vijay Kumar,” BSP state general secretary Sukhwinder Kotli said here on Wednesday, adding: “Police, later, gave Bittu clean chit but an eyewitness of the murder moved the district court, which issued new orders to arrest the councillor. Since police didn't carry out the order, we had no option but to go into agitation."
Harsh politics of soft stance
Political experts are of the opinion that since the ruling alliance would want the Dalit votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, police administration would suffer in the volatile Doaba region, as any harsh action against key voters is ruled out.
It was bizarre show of lawlessness on Tuesday, as a few hundred BSP supporters reduced 1,000 policemen to spectators. Senior officials in the police and administration were seen pleading with small BSP leaders to lift the blockade, as common public on the national highway suffered in silence. This was in spite of rulings from the Supreme Court and high court that police and administration were free to begin criminal proceedings against highway blockers.
Since the violence in the state in May 2009 after the firing on a dera head at a gurdwara in the Austrian capital of Vienna, the state's ruling alliance has allegedly dealt with all the Dalit protests softly. That in spite of the high court strictures, it is yet to register cases against the perpetrators of that arson is evidence in itself.
Even with new powers, system powerless
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the home ministry, had introduced a commissionerate system in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Amritsar, giving additional emergency-response powers to police in situations where communication with civil magisterial officers was difficult, but all this new authority came to no avail on Tuesday.