The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The author is an alumnus of the National Defence College

Bapi Sen! Who' Is he related to Cambridge and Harvard based Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen' Is he close to the Mumbai based former Miss Universe, Sushmita Sen' No. Bapi Sen did not have any “Universe” or “Nobel” tags against his name. He was a Calcutta Police traffic sergeant (a class III officer) who has been noble in his deeds, both on and off duty. He would be the first one to chase and catch chain-snatching thieves and return the ornament to the wailing woman. He tried to rescue the damsel in distress. He despised all wrong-doers. And he repeated his act of chivalry and valour on the eve of the new year on one of the city roads. Though a cop off duty, he acted as if he was still on duty. He was accompanied by his “friends”. Yet he was attacked by his own drunk comrades-in-arms for coming in the way of their teasing and molesting a woman.

Bapi Sen is dead now. But even if he were to come back from the jaws of death, he would not have been in a position, mentally and physically, to do what he used to do for the millions of innocent people in Calcutta: uphold the law and protect the law-abiding citizens and catch the lawbreakers. Perhaps this is the kind of ignoble end that awaits people like Sen for going beyond the call of their duty.

Why is this so' What was the grave provocation for Sen to rush, intervene and rescue a stranger woman chased by five drunkards on a metropolitan city tram track' Was he not foolhardy' Is not India a democratic country with a voluminous and magnanimous Constitution conferring “free”, “fair” and “fundamental” rights to all its citizens (which perhaps also includes the non-citizens and intruders of the neighbouring countries) to do what they choose to do, right or wrong; good, bad or even ugly' Therefore, what special rights did Bapi possess to dispossess the five Indian drunkards to enjoy their “fundamental rights” to have fun and frolic with, and flavour of, a girl on a motorbike' Surely, Sen’s action is no great deal. It amounted to an outburst of an “idealist” teenager dreaming of a “Ram rajya” on a soil which has nothing to do with Ram and everything to do with nairajya (anarchy).

Yes. The brutal (which finally turned fatal) assault of Sergeant Bapi Sen is an ultimate reality and victory of anarchy whose symptoms, prima facie, appear beyond redemption. The five rogues, who butchered the solitary sergeant, represent the best of the devils in the form of the worst of evils who masquerade in the guise of the Calcutta Police by day and massacre and molest the innocents by night. It is social contradiction at its best in the 21st century Indian society which is already reeling under the threat of religious fundamentalism and terrorism of an imported (that is, cross-border) kind.

What then is the future' What could be the long-term implication of the murderous assault on Sergeant Bapi Sen for the country' Experts, cynics and critics, all are likely to unanimously say — “What nonsense! What is there for the country of one billion to worry, or bother about, a piddling police sergeant dying on a Calcutta road trying to save a woman' This sort of situation or incident is neither unusual nor unprecedented. This is the process of dialectic materialism, and it is simply a minor law-and-order irritant. It is an aberration. West Bengal is one of the ‘best administered’ states of the country and people here are a ‘cultured’ lot.”

Without doubt “culture” and “administration” are two catchy words in West Bengal. But a peep into the recent past will neither strengthen nor enhance the image of the contemporary Bengali society. Thus, how can one forget the savage butchery of Vinod Mehta, a brave IPS officer of the 1971 batch belonging to the West Bengal cadre, in broad daylight on Sunday, March 18, 1984 in Calcutta' Should one forget the inaction and indifference of Mehta’s IPS colleagues which led to his violent end' Mehta was considered to be one of the bravest and boldest IPS officers in West Bengal in 1984. He was killed by a violent mob instigated and masterminded by a notorious don, now a big name in West Bengal, and helped by the inaction of the men in uniform. Bapi Sen too is considered one of the most upright, conscientious and brave police sergeants of Calcutta. However, in the case of Sen, his own drunk comrades-in-arms beat him to a pulp. Does one find a parallel' Is an honest, bold and brave policeman in West Bengal an “unwanted animal”' Is a duty-conscious and conscientious cop a liability to the system'

Today, the Mehta of 1984 and the Sen of 2003 constitute the two inglorious chapters of West Bengal society. Mehta was the prologue. Sen is the epilogue. And here lies the future threat to the country’s security. Just take a look at the ramifications. It is only a few pegs of liquor and the sight of a woman on a scooter which turn five keepers of law into five breakers of law. In one stroke, the five “anti-terrorists” turn into ruthless “terrorists” trying to kill not only an innocent citizen, but their colleague. How can, therefore, these types of people in the forces be trusted to combat terrorism and face the cross-border religious fanatic' India’s enemies are sure to take advantage of the weakness of these men, luring them with liquor and lass to fulfil their task of destroying India.

A final question may be asked here: why make the Bapi Sen episode an issue now' When police officers and men are being killed in different parts of the country and soldiers are succumbing to the insurgent’s bullets in the Northeast, what is so great about a “stray” casualty in Calcutta' The answer, thankfully, lies in the question itself. West Bengal’s bosses have announced that the state “is an oasis in a desert” so far as law and order is concerned. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth, as demonstrated by the murderous assault on Bapi Sen on January 1, 2003.

Nothing now would possibly stop the honest and the upright policeman from joining the gang of rapists and molesters, paving the way for more penetration, intrusion and devastation by the neighbours of India. As the saying goes, if you can’t fight them, join them. If professionalism, integrity and probity go unrecognized and unrewarded, why not resort to politicking' If the assault on Sen is not an act of terror, then what is' Will the “cultured” people of West Bengal reply'

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