Central Delhi was under siege and the ruler of Delhi himself was leading the charge. It was the theatre of the absurd at its worst with Arvind Kejriwal behaving like a petulant protester, the leader of a small ‘mob’ of men who obviously did not have a job or a business to attend to. Many unemployed men thronged the street. This was an opportunity for them to flex their muscles. Encouraged by their leader, who asked citizens to join him in his dharna, the group broke the law, jumped over barricades, confronted the police and tried to create mayhem.
The seasoned police force realized very quickly that the supporters of the newly elected leaders were novices. One wrong move could cause the dharna to implode. The press spent the day on the street boring the viewers and showcasing the Indian capital as a broken, clumsy domain where the rule of law was being blatantly scoffed at by the ruler himself.
If these are the mechanisms that the AAP believes would reform India, the party has got it wrong. If, on the other hand, the AAP is hell-bent on unleashing a state of anarchy where the boundaries of civil society will shift and slip and there will be a free-for-all in keeping with the personality of whoever is at the helm, then the party is on the right path. It is encouraging a dangerous and personalized form of vigilantism.
India knows that the police force is hugely corrupt. We have all been victims of people or institutions demanding hafta at some point in our lives. The rich pay a higher rate than the poor, but everyone is trapped in this terrible net. The ruling authority that is mandated to ensure clean governance has been wholly responsible for the profound degradation and unending corruption. Successive governments have consciously ignored administrative and police reforms. What Arvind Kejriwal is dishing out — something that is being lapped up by the people — is not going to put an end to extortion or change the mentality of the cops. Without deeper structural changes, the police will become even more brazen and ruthless given that the dharna is already history.
The chief minister should have staged a dharna in the office of the lieutenant governor till they had thrashed out, together, the modus operandi to deal with the problem at hand. Delhi’s law minister had acted incorrectly and behaved arrogantly. Ironically, the AAP often accuses other political parties of acting in such an unacceptable manner. It is disturbing to note that the intellectual wing of the AAP has not been able to initiate measures that would ensure the participation of citizens in the stipulated security process. The party could have set up a system in which citizen groups, four residents of a particular area — both men and women — help the police handle complaints, file FIRs, and so on. In case there are irregularities, they would take the complaint to the offices of either the chief minister or the lieutenant governor.
In a mature political environment, the lieutenant governor and the chief minister must be seen to be on the same page, dedicating their minds and energy to the city that they rule together. This is democratic practice and an appropriate process of ruling a state. If laws are redundant, rewrite them and pass fresh legislations through the assembly. To announce and then lead a process that ends up violating the rule of law is untenable. The excitement of seeing a chief minister protesting on the street will then turn quickly to sheer embarrassment as tasks like governance and the administration of the city will be neglected and infrastructural change will remain static. A new, restructured system must kick in to bring about meaningful reform.