Vibhuti Narain Rai writes: Leaders should also bear responsibility for administrative lapses Indian Express

26, Jul 2022 | Vibhuti Narain Rai

Vibhuti Narain Rai writes: We must remember what then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was trying to remind the nation of when he mentioned ‘raj dharma’ and, more importantly, to whom. We must remember that the world’s opinion matters in these globalised times

A leader is the most decisive factor, both in times of war and peace. What happened in those dark times in Gujarat was certainly war. (File)

I don’t consider it prudent to debate issues with highly polarised dimensions because one can’t expect any fruitful outcome from such an exercise. Yet, I am constrained to give a rejoinder to certain presumptions arrived at in an article by Abhinav Kumar ( ‘An inconvenient truth’, IE, July 14 ), a senior member of the Indian Police Service, in which I also had the opportunity to spend more than three decades of my life. I feel it necessary because if the sweeping generalisations, through which Kumar tries to give us his understanding about certain very serious issues of governance or the lack thereof, are not rebutted, they may create incorrect impressions. It is all the more necessary to give a rejoinder as the author reminds us of his identity as an IPS officer by referring to “our own Rajendra Kumar” but very conveniently forgetting Sanjiv Bhatt and R B Sreekumar, two outstanding members of the service who are in jail because they had the courage to stand up against the rulers of the day.

Kumar feels that big administrative lapses are more systemic failures and any attempt to point fingers at the person in the driver’s seat is to “place too much faith in the ability of two or three individuals”. He has given three examples, which are significant occasions of the total collapse of the law and order machinery in this country. His arguments make it clear from the very beginning that he is concerned about Teesta Setalvad getting so much attention after her arrest and the “ignorant” trying to paint the then Gujarat leadership as being responsible for what happened during the 2002 communal riots in the state.

Anybody who has even a little knowledge of the system of governance in India knows that it is always top driven. A few glaring examples of commission and omission may be taken from the article itself. One could wonder what the fate of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya would have been if there had been no Narasimha Rao at the helm of affairs in New Delhi on December 6, 1992? Could the structure have been demolished in the presence of a huge contingent of armed policemen? Similarly, would the violence against Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination have been possible if the government of the day had decided to intervene effectively? One can scan the newspapers of the first week of November 1984 and it is clear that the violence took place only in states that had Congress governments. Luckily, in those days, nearly half of India was ruled by non-Congress parties and no major incidence of violence took place in those parts, thus making it clear that the chief executive of the state really mattered.

The third example needs some detailed analysis because the whole argument is built to give the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 the benefit of the doubt. Kumar tries to convince us that the administration watched as Muslims were brutalised for a week or so because of the “failures of systemic proportions involving hundreds if not thousands of individuals, who are both state and non-state actors.” It is shocking to see a senior IPS officer who is supposed to be the leader of the force denying the role of the leadership in a trying situation. A leader is the most decisive factor, both in times of war and peace. What happened in those dark times in Gujarat was certainly war.

The original piece may be read here


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