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Other ways to deal with mobs and menace

The recent killing of over 30 innocent passengers travelling on a private bus on Dantewada highway in Chattisgarh came as a rude reminder that we are far from suppressing the Naxalite uprising, writes Khushwant Singh.

columns Updated: May 30, 2010 00:12 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

The recent killing of over 30 innocent passengers travelling on a private bus on Dantewada highway in Chattisgarh came as a rude reminder that we are far from suppressing the Naxalite uprising. The killers are not common thieves or robbers after loot but have something far more sinister in mind: they want to subvert democratically elected governments and replace them with Communists dictatorships. This is not acceptable to the vast majority of Indians and should be crushed as soon as possible.

Home Minister Chidambaram is right in holding that maintenance of law and order is primarily the responsibility of state governments. Chief Ministers of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh have much to answer for. What were their police doing when lethal arms and explosives were being smuggled in and distributed among Naxalite outfits? Don’t they have intelligence agencies to warn them about what is going on in remote villages hidden in forests?

I have not the slightest doubt they had full knowledge of what was going on but were too lethargic to take action. They were busy disposing of fillies, holding press conferences and slamming their rivals to hang on to their posts. Their most convenient ploy is to pass the buck of responsibility to the central government.

It is time to wake up and realise the magnitude of the growing menace of Naxalism. By all means take steps to redress their grievances and if they have been wrongfully deprived of their forest lands without proper compensation, rectify the wrong doings. But on no account allow them to take the law in their own hands and put lives of the peaceful majority in jeopardy.

Red chilli To disperse

Many methods of dispersing unruly mobs have been tried in India. During British rule, the Governor of Bengal, an Australian, tried sirens. People were then not familiar with the continuous screaming of sirens and fled for their lives. Then they got used to them and ignored them as mob dispersers. Next we tried squirting water through powerful hose-pipes used by fire brigades. They did the trick in cold weather but proved ineffective during summers. We tried tear gas which hurts the eyes. Ultimately we had to resort to lathi charges by policemen. Mobs retaliated by hurling stones at the police. Many people were hurt in the process. It is also considered too brutal a method to disperse the mob.

Now perhaps we’ve found the ultimate weapon to get the better of unruly mobs. It is the humble laal
mirich — red chilli. It has been used to temporarily blind thieves, robbers and protesters by throwing powder in their faces. Our scientists have evolved a new method of spraying chilli powder over a large area to bring tears in their eyes and run back to their homes.

I did not find the discovery a laughing matter but the Montreal Gazette of Canada found it funny and so did Private Eye of London in its ‘Funny Old World’ column. I reproduce what they have to say about it: “The chilli grenade is going to be a highly effective non-toxic weapon in the fight against this vile terrorism,” R B Srivastava of the Defence Research and Development Organisation told a press conference in New Delhi, “because it will enable us to capture terrorists alive. Conventional explosive grenades simply kill the enemy, but the pungent smell of the bhut jolokia chilli will choke them, and force them out of their hide-outs , so we can capture them. In powdered form, it’s like tear gas, but much more powerful, and our defence forces will soon be using the world’s hottest chilli as a weapon.”

Defence spokesman Colonel R Kalia added that the scientific measurement of a chilli’s spiciness is the Scoville unit. To give you some idea of the strength of the bhut jolokia, classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure upto 8,000. But the bhut jolokia, or ‘ghost chilli’ has over 10,00,000 Scoville units, which is more than enough to temporarily disable anybody who breathes it in powdered form. The chilli grenade has already been declared fit for use, after extensive trials in our laboratories, and trials are also underway to produce bhut jolokia aerosol sprays, to be used by police to control and disperse mobs.”

City of the commonwealth

Delhi is becoming a world-class city
And it’s a pity
That the middle classes and the poor should cry
When the tax burden becomes unbearably high
They cry when the transport becomes costly,
They hate to pay more for the LPG and look at that
They resent even the increase in VAT
Already, they say, there is crushing inflation,
They forget that in the near future there is no election
They forget that to live in a world-class city
They should learn to do without milk, sugar and tea
Now Delhi is a place only for the super rich
And the rest should recite Ram naam, and go
And happily watch the Commonwealth show.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

First Published: May 30, 2010 00:03 IST