Sunday, October 4, 2015

Is No One Responsible For The Lathi-Charge On Our Veterans? Jay Bhattacharjee

An enquiry conducted by the PMO, on the basis of a Swarajya article by this author, seems to imply that.

In the early morning of the 17th August, an innocuous–sounding text message almost escaped this writer’s attention. It was the Monday after an important weekend. The previous Friday, the 14th, had witnessed a new low in Indian public life; Delhi Police had unleashed their lathis on the armed forces veterans who had assembled in a legal and peaceful rally at the capital’s Jantar Mantar to press for their demand for OROP. Even by the deplorable standards of the desi police, this was a shocking event.

The nation was outraged to see images of the war medals of octogenarian veterans being torn off by members of Delhi’s mutation of the Keystone cops. Along with millions of my fellow citizens, I, too, was outraged, and decided to write an essay on the 15th August on this grotesque indignity heaped on soldiers and warriors who had defended our nation so heroically and bravely in all the wars that India had been compelled to wage after Independence. My article on the incident and its background (why, in the first place, the veterans had been compelled to demonstrate) was published on Independence Day itself.

The Prime Minister’s customary address to the nation on this sacrosanct occasion, made a cursory reference to the OROP issue and included a rather half-hearted undertaking that the matter would be resolved soon. Needless to say, India’s retired warriors (and, I dare say, the serving defenders too), along with the vast majority of my fellow citizens and yours truly, were distinctly underwhelmed by this stand of the PM. Therefore, the 17th August, was truly a copybook example of Monday morning blues.

When I got around to reading the SMS, I was initially confused. The message read : “Your Grievance has been registered vide Registration number PMOPG/E/2015/0065783. Please logon (sic) to: http;//pgportal. for any further details”.

Having written reasonably frequently to various errant government and municipal agencies in the capital and elsewhere on their numerous lapses in governance, I was wondering what this was all about. When I opened the URL, it transpired that I had been granted entry to the Valhalla where ordinary Indians are very rarely entertained, a sanctum sanctorum that most of us can only dream about – the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in South Block on Raisina Hill. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief – the nearest I had ventured anywhere near this place in recent times was through a number of open letters (read “articles”) I had penned in various publications, either electronic or print, addressed to the Prime Minister.

Now, as every commentator / essayist in these shores will tell you, these so-called “open letters” to the powers-that-be have as little impact as water off a duck’s back. The Indian establishment has a skin so strong that it puts titanium to shame. And as every chaiwallah in Delhi and the nation knows, the top guns in the establishment are the IAS lot, with a few IFS chaps occasionally thrown in, to mumble in Mandarin, French or German, in the exalted corridors of the PMO.

Going through the page that opened on my screen, I learnt that a “Public Grievance” had been registered in my name by the nation’s top honchos about the police lathi charge on the veterans on the 14th. The “grievance” was based on the Swarajya essay of mine published on the 15th. In fact, the entire essay was reproduced in the PMO’s portal. 

Status as on 17 Aug 2015
Registration Number:PMOPG/E/2015/0065783
Name Of Complainant:Jay Bhatacharjee
Date of Receipt:17 Aug 2015
Received by:Prime Ministers Office
Officer name:Shri Ambuj Sharma
Officer Designation:Under Secretary (Public)
Contact Address:Public Wing

5th Floor, Rail Bhawan

New Delhi110011
Contact Number:011-23386447
Grievance Description:Lathi Charge on Veterans on Aug 14th 2015 Cry My Beloved Country – Military Veterans Assaulted By Police

While all this was quite flattering, the mystery remained. 

I had not approached the super-babus in the PMO with any complaint or grievance or whatever they choose to label it. Having spoken to a number of friends, the general consensus was that one of the readers of my essay that was then being circulated quite extensively (as happens in the age of the internet) had sent it to the PMO, who registered it suo motu, and informed me so that my readers, friends and I would be temporarily placated.
This was also the overall consensus in my circle – the establishment was trying to buy time and attempting to put on a show so that the hoi polloi would calm down. Nevertheless, my instinct was to give the whole exercise a bit of momentum, in the faint hope that some attempt would be made by the GOI to get to the bottom of the shameful incident of the 14th. Therefore, I decided to take up the cudgel, as it were, that had been left on the battlefield by an unknown fellow-citizen.

Even in my worst-scenario exercise, I could not anticipate how wretchedly these babus would behave. The designated officer, whose details were mentioned in the portal as Under Secretary (Public), would never come on the line. Each time, a flunkey, who grandly announced himself as “staff” and refused to divulge his identity, would curtly tell me that the U.Secy. had no time to speak to complainants and / or members of the public. On numerous occasions, this wing of the GOI, ostensibly set up to attend to citizens’ grievances, took a vicarious thrill in fobbing me off with excuses that ranged from the bizarre to the obscene. The only relevant information that the portal disgorged from time to time was that the matter had been referred to the Commissioner of Police of Delhi for his feedback. Since the Police top chap was the one whose force had committed the offence, I thought it was a bit rich to ask him to look into the matter.

Now, all this is hardly news to the hapless citizens of this country, who have been used to this type of governance for the last 7 decades or so in independent India and for seven to eight centuries before that under various versions of the Sultanate and the Raj. However, there is a new factor being played out here.

In power now, is the NaMo regime, that had been voted in last year with a massive majority, and whose professed aim was that it would usher in a new paradigm of governance and public administration. With just about 19 months in the driving seat, the objectives and stated agenda of the new occupants of Raisina Hill are being blatantly sabotaged, obstructed and derailed by the babus. Unless, of course, and banish the thought, the events of 2014 (the glorious dawn etc.) were all shadow-boxing. More on this later.

Since the Under Secy (Public) was flagrantly AWOL or absconding or whatever they do in desi babudom, I decided to contact, whatever it needed, the critical decision-maker in this maze, the fabled JS (Joint Secretary in the capital’s parlance). 

After 10 days of using the old-boy network et al, I finally succeeded in making the nabob come on the telephone line. Icily courteous, he explained that the poor U.Secy. was buried under a mountain of complaints and couldn’t really speak to every complainant who dared to ring the telephone number listed in the portal. The fellow’s tone clearly indicated that I was a mental retard, if I thought I could exercise my democratic and constitutional rights in ye Olde Ind to speak to public functionaries. The chap put down the phone after mumbling that I would be told the outcome of the “case” within ten days or so.

Like a besotted teenager waiting for my girlfriend to contact me, I spent my waking hours in the last fortnight for the phone call, E-Mail or SMS from the burra sahibs, or at least the junior burra sahib, the U.Secy. There was nothing incoming – a scenario that was very much like the PM’s undertakings on OROP, parroted faithfully by the Raksha Mantri. Not even a homily resembling the periodic sermons from the FM admonishing the veterans for being naïve enough to claim their legitimate dues. A big blank screen on my computer and my cell phone, if you please. 

Then I ventured to visit the PMO portal on the 22nd. Hallelujah, the nation’s presiding deity had acted. The words glaring at me on the screen read :

Current Status:CASE CLOSED
Date of Action:11 Sep 2015
Details:During enquiry, it is revealed that the anti-encroachment drive to evict unauthorized protesters, illegal tents/structures was conducted in a very peaceful manner by the NDMC officials while as a law enforcement agency Delhi Police was presented there to protect the NDMC officials during their drive. Therefore no further action is required in this complaint.

Now, this is the icing on the cake by the babus – a five-line statement in pidgin language (“Delhi Police was presented there”) that attempts to sweep under the carpet one of the most shameful incidents in the history of independent India. 

A statement that is a blatant lie (when it refers to “unauthorized” protesters, whereas they had all the necessary permissions) is passed off as the official response of the GOI.

The action-taken-report (ATR in Indian babu language) does not even bother to clarify the basic details : 

(a) who conducted the enquiry 
(b) what were the terms of reference of the enquiry 
(c) what credible evidence was provided to the persons conducting the enquiry and 
(d) who were the persons called to testify in the enquiry? 

The PMO manifestly feels that these fundamental queries pertaining to the so-called enquiry are never going to be asked, and if asked, they will never be required to be disclosed.

If the PM, the RM and the FM, think that this is where the matter ends they are sadly mistaken. This is something that will come back as a phoenix to haunt them in the future. 

The babus, of course, are having the last laugh. 

Not only have they and the khakiwallahs got away with battery and assault, they have also effectively derailed the entire OROP movement. What can one say? The inimitable Ogden Nash said it in much better words than I can muster.

I’m an autocratic figure in these democratic states.
A dandy demonstration of hereditary traits.
My position at the apex of society I owe,
To the qualities my parents, bequeathed me long ago.
I remember daddy’s warning that raping is a crime.
Unless you rape the voters a million at a time.

Jay Bhattacharjee is a policy and corporate affairs analyst based in Delhi.


  1. An intellectual ,analytical and highly conscious
    Citizen 's writeup .I would take a print out and give to those lot who speak lot of English , but hide behind or close their eyes or look other way ,when the crime of RAPE ( like crimes are commited in public ). - just to rub them . Because ,present state of crimes in all fields of activity is due to passivity by prosperous citizens.

  2. sir what ever written is true and Indian babus are for more powerfull than politician let it be PM RM or else they make fool to public politician and judiciary also god bless our India and it solzers

  3. This is a very serious matter which should be attended on priority by high profile dignitaries like Defence Minister, Home Minister & Prime Minister.

    1. Yogesh sir, sorry, you still refuse to accept the fact that as for as this government - the political leadership and the bureaucracy is concerned - ESMs can be dumped and ignored. Has DM any real say in this government?? You expect HM to act when the police acted on the instructions of his officers and PM will go by the advice of his these very ministers including the FM and the bureaucracy. Just stated the fact as I analyse ,-- would be happy to be proven wrong......

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