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A State gone totally soft

THE NEWS that UP minister Haji Yaqoob Qureshi announced at a public meeting in Meerut a reward of Rs 51 crore and gold equal to his bodyweight to anybody murdering the Danish cartoonist has been widely reported. In the print media and confirmed pictorially in electronic media, it leaves little room for any doubt about its veracity.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2006 23:57 IST
MC Dewedy

THE NEWS that UP minister Haji Yaqoob Qureshi announced at a public meeting in Meerut a reward of Rs 51 crore and gold equal to his bodyweight to anybody murdering the Danish cartoonist has been widely reported. In the print media and confirmed pictorially in electronic media, it leaves little room for any doubt about its veracity.

The minister also exhorted Muslims to contribute to the ‘noble’ cause. Further, the news that UP, although in disagreement with the minister’s views, has found little reason to initiate any action — either to dismiss him as a minister or to initiate police investigation against him — leaves little room for any doubt about it being a fact.

The grounds given by the State and its officials for not initiating any action against the minister hardly need examination by a legal luminary before being declared farcical. On the other hand, they appear to test the limits of ignorance and credulity of the citizens of this State. Let me state these and clarify the legal position:

These were private views of Hajiji and not expressed as a minister.
Since the cartoonist is Danish and lives in Europe, the matter belongs to alien soil.

How can the State initiate police action when no FIR has been lodged by the Danish cartoonist?

The views expressed by the minister were not something told to his wife, children or friends in confidence. The minister was speaking in a public meeting and was openly abetting the public to reward any person who would commit murder of the cartoonist. Only a soft, partisan or downright coward State can condone such a conduct of a minister on the excuse of it being a private matter of the minister. Or else this state will have to create its own thesaurus to redefine ‘private’ for its minister.

While defining ‘murder’, the Indian Penal Code makes no distinction between an Indian and a foreigner being the victim. The act of abetment has been carried out on Indian soil, so the responsibility to punish the abettor is of India - and, since the law and order is a State subject under the Indian Constitution, it is of the State of Uttar Pradesh.

The Indian Penal Code provides that the station officer of a police station shall register a case on receipt of first information of commission of a cognizable offence. I have not read or heard anywhere that for registering and investigation cognizable offences a complaint from some person is a must. If it were so, no case would be registered on recovery of unknown dead bodies with injury marks, or against terrorists against whose acts, people rarely dare to lodge FIRs. The police can register and investigate a case on its own.

In the present case, the matter of concern for a patriotic Indian is not so much the utterance of a fanatic, but the response of the State on such anti-constitutional public behaviour of a minister. I hope our ruling politicians know that we are a secular democratic state and not a theocratic Islamic state and ministers belonging to any religion have taken oath to owe allegiance to the Indian Constitution.

Flagrant violation of that oath publicly should automatically disqualify a minister from holding the high office. We can also not afford to forget that similar unconstitutional utterances by Bhindranwale in the 80s, when ignored by the state for political reasons, had encouraged misguided Sikh youth to become terrorists.

If the response of the State in this case is taken as a precedent, tomorrow in the of religion, any person could incite the public to commit murder or murders with impunity. And any sane person should shiver in his shoes thinking about the consequences of such a situation.

The writer is a former director general of police of UP.