The great fall of Maharashtra police

The latest in sordid episodes that have given their image a fresh beating is a viral video clip of IPS officer Bhagyashree Navatake from Beed district

mumbai Updated: Dec 05, 2018 00:04 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,police,Dalits
Manufacturing cases against people they don’t like or those who are an inconvenience to them seems to have become a specialty of the Maharashtra police. (Pic for representation/HT file)

From being known as second only to Scotland Yard to be a little better than thugs and yes-men to political masters, it has to be a great come down for the Maharashtra police. The latest in these sordid episodes that have given their image a fresh beating is a viral video clip of IPS officer Bhagyashree Navatake from Beed district who claims to lodge false cases against Dalits and Muslims for simply being who they are — Dalits and Muslims.

The clip has created a storm in the state with calls for the officer’s suspension and the longer the government takes over it, the more likely the ruling dispensation is to suffer the consequences of such blatant casteism and communalism among its top police forces. In view of the recent agitation for reservations by Marathas, wherein they wanted the simultaneous dilution of the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act of 1989, the episode only goes to prove why the act is justified and essential even today and must not be trifled with in any manner.

For Navatake seems to be suggesting to some Marathas that had she known they were Marathas at the time of their arrest, they might have been treated differently. She beats Marathas only on their backsides, she boasts, while she ties the hands and legs of Dalits and pulverises them for she hates the Atrocities act. In her previous posting in Pune, on one case, she delayed the arrests of some Marathas by three days and used the time to have false complaints lodged against Dalits who had accused the Marathas of atrocities against them, she says.

The boasts are horribly shocking and unacceptable but I begin to wonder why such claims from police officers surface only during the regimes of governments inimical to Dalits. The last time something similar happened was in1997 when a police officer indiscriminately opened fire on Dalits protesting the desecration of a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar at Ramabai Ambedkarnagar in Ghatkopar. Although that inspector was not subject to the perils or risks of social media as this IPS officer has been, he had been equally boastful to the media about how he could not stand the protestors and sought to teach them a lesson. The Maharashtra government then too had the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in residence and the then chief minister, Manohar Joshi, had fiercely resisted suspending the inspector before finally giving in under concerted public pressure.

I do not think the BJP has yet forgotten how Pramod Mahajan, their then MP from the constituency, was not allowed to set a foot in the area for the failure of his government to take action. He ultimately lost the subsequent elections to the Lok Sabha.

This time, though, it is not a junior-ranked officer, who lost his judgment and indiscriminately opened fire on protesting Dalits in a single spontaneous incident. Bhagyashree Navatake is a high ranking IPS officer who is cold-bloodedly propagating her hatred for Dalits and Muslims and how she uses her high office to protect upper castes and screw up the justice system against the underprivileged and deprived classes on account of her personal biases.

Manufacturing cases against people they don’t like or those who are an inconvenience to them (as in the case of the ridiculous conspiracy to assassinate Narendra Modi through open letters written to each other by alleged Maoist sympathisers) seems to have become a specialty of the Maharashtra police. But the rot now seems to have set in at the very top echelons of the police force. Recently, retired ACP Dhanraj Vanjari, who had warned his IPS bosses of unusual activity in the sea off Colaba before the 26/11 attacks, was ignored and had false charges of corruption filed against him to stop him from speaking the truth, discovered some more disingenuity on the part of the police top brass. They had told a top retired bureaucrat looking for him that he had become an Australian citizen and could not be extradited — when Vanjari is a frequent television guest on national and regional channels every week! He came face to face with the bureaucrat in a TV studio on 26/11 this year and both discovered how they had been had.

So if the police will not spare one of their own, what chance do lesser mortals have?

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 00:04 IST