There is a joke being played on the ordinary Calcuttan. He is being assured of improved conditions of existence and a smoother daily life. For this to happen, he himself is expected to be law-abiding in public places, to follow traffic rules and pedestrian regulations, not create a noise above a certain decibel level, not misbehave with women or light up in no-smoking zones and comply with various other such simple rules — and the city will immediately be a cleaner, brighter, nicer place. The “ordinary” Calcuttan in this case would mean anyone who does not represent or enforce the law. Because, as soon as someone does that, he becomes quite extraordinary. He can behave like a thug and a bully and expect to get away with it. The two lawyers who refused to use the zebra crossing decided to threaten and then push around the police officer on duty when asked by him to go by the rules. They had as support a whole group of lawyers, whose behaviour was an excellent example of mob aggression. Neither can this be excused as excitement and misjudgment on the spur of the moment. Upon the arrest of their two meandering brethren, who brought counter-charges against the police upon being charged, a large number of lawyers decided to protest against the arrest by “squatting” at a nodal point on the road so that traffic would be brought to a standstill. And would not move until a police official apologized.
Thuggism and an arrogant assertion of privilege go hand in hand in this culture of lawlessness. The lawyers’ inexcusable behaviour represents another facet of the kind of impulse that drove five policemen to kill a colleague when he objected to their misbehaviour. Corruption can be checked if it is associated with outlawry and crime. But when it is exactly the other way round, when it stems from those professionals who will define outlawry and catch and punish criminals, then perhaps it is time to worry. “Ordinary” Calcuttans — those who do not represent the law in any capacity — cannot be blamed entirely for scepticism or for refusing to follow any rule because no one does. There is another, better way, though. Right action. Not easy to persist in, but the only way out of this morass.