Courts need to immediately end the bulldozer mania gripping India
India has entered into a new era of politics—the bulldozer era. Recently, there were riots during Ram Navami processions in various Indian cities.
India has entered into a new era of politics—the bulldozer era. Recently, there were riots during Ram Navami processions in various Indian cities. Miscreants and rioters indulged in criminal activities on the streets. Public property was damaged, and many people were killed or injured. The police have to control the riots, arrest the culprits and bring them to the court of law for a trial and subsequent punishment. The miscreants’ faith, race, caste or ethnicity are not a deciding factor before the law. If someone has damaged public property and the same is proven in the court, there is due process to recover the damage from the culprit. No one can have any dispute on any of the above facts.
However, in brazen showmanship, some state governments are acting as judge, jury and executioner, and selectively targeting a section of the people based on their faith. If there is an accusation of someone indulging in criminal activity like stone pelting, the authorities send a bulldozer to raze down the home or the business establishment of the accused. There is no trial, no serving of notice, no due process of law, but a theatrical show of brute power to please a cheering crowd. Indian politicians of certain states are competing with each other to earn the sobriquets like Bulldozer Baba, Bulldozer Mama, Bulldozer Chacha and so on. Many people are cheering on this new trend, not understanding that the Indian Constitution and the rule of law are getting bulldozed in the process.
Rioting is a serious crime. There are other serious crimes like murder, rape, assault etc. Will the same instant justice be applied to all the crimes in the future? If someone is accused of a crime, will the state be sending bulldozers to raze down the accused person’s home? What if you live in a joint family, an adult member of your extended family is charged with a murder, and the authorities raze down your common home without any notice or trial for a crime in which you have no control or responsibility? If a member of a family has thrown stones, he is the one who needs to be punished. How are his family members, including minor children, responsible for his crime? Why should they be rendered homeless? Which law gives the power to raze down buildings? If it is proved that the accused is innocent in a court of law later, will they be compensated? Will the civil servants who led the bulldozers pay the compensation from their salary?
One of the city commissioners who indulged in this brazen lawlessness claimed that bulldozer justice is to instil fear in the minds of miscreants. In other words, it is a state-sponsored act of intimidation. Another excuse given is the state needs to recover the losses for the damage to public property. It defies logic how razing down homes of the accused help the government in recovering damages. If the government wants to recover damages, it must follow the due process of law. It must first prove the crime of the accused in a court of law, assess the quantum of damage caused by the culprit’s criminal act, and then recover the property, as directed by the court. Even if the properties are standing on encroached land, it needs to be proven to be standing in encroached lands.
The silence of the courts is baffling. It is also disheartening that no government executive is protesting or refusing to execute such illegal orders from their political masters. Are we seeing a total collapse of the pillars of democracy like the judiciary and the executive? If this trend continues, it is better to wind up the courts, police stations etc. All we need is a fleet of bulldozers in every town. This will intimidate people and prevent them from committing any crime. For example, you violate a traffic rule, and the bulldozer would immediately crush your car into a pulp or make your scooter into scrap. The next step would be to shoot the accused. If this sounds like a dictatorship, it is because it is a dictatorship.
For some, it may be entertaining to watch the livelihood and homes of some people destroyed. But unfortunately, the communal hatred imbibed through countless WhatsApp forwards, and social media posts have made many of us blind to the basic sense of justice and humanity. Imagine every political party in each state taking bulldozers to the homes of their opponent as a tool of intimidation. For our country and democracy, let us hope that the courts wake up from their slumber soon and stop this bulldozer mania at the earliest.
Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy