Monday, June 14, 2021
Column

Coronavirus Cogitations: Violence is no Vaccine to Virus

Monalisa Changkija

 Pardon my language but the sh-t has hit the roof. When a frontline worker, no less a Doctor on duty, is reported to have been brutally assaulted by the Police, it doesn’t and couldn’t get any worse. What had allegedly transpired is well-known to everyone by now and no condemnation is enough to convey how the public feels about this dastardly act of the Police reportedly in an inebriated state. The 21-day nation-wide lockdown, and the 5-day total shutdown at Dimapur, are no license to use of force and violence by the Police ~ neither are Sections 144, 188 and all other Sections invoked by Dimapur’s Deputy Commissioner (DC) and Commissioner of Police). Clearly, the two worthies failed to imbibe in the Police here restrain, discipline, law and order and respect for citizens of the world’s largest democracy. The two worthies have also apparently failed to curb the alcoholic thirst of our danda-happy Police. Where and how cops manage to get alcohol at a time like this not only reflects the cops’ total disregard for the law but also underscores how damningly they imperil public health in the face of the rampaging novel Coronavirus across the globe, which is getting nearer home. Investigations into the apparent availability of alcohol made to the police must begin at the earliest.

The Dimapur Police clearly fails to understand that our Doctors and all other health and medical personnel are in the first line of the frontline defense against this disease hence must be secured at all cost. The cops here obviously fail to understand that they themselves are the most vulnerable to the virus, seeing that they are out the whole day enforcing the lockdown and the shutdown ~ some perhaps without face masks. And, we don’t know how many times and how well they wash their hands. In fact truth be told, we don’t know the health status of our cops and how many of them have underlying issues such as Diabetes, heart and lung problems, etc. Our cops may be arrogant and indulge in high-handedness and violence as much as they want but no, they are not immune to diseases, much less Coronavirus. So, Police laga phutani is totally unwarranted at this time.

Then think about this ~ in several countries where the virus has struck relentlessly, a good number of doctors and nurses have fallen prey to the disease. So, there is actually a shortage of doctors and nurses and indubitably other health workers like lab technicians across the globe. UK has recalled retired NHK personnel ~ even Nagaland has asked retired health and medical personnel to volunteer. But our uninformed and boorish cops here have the temerity to beat up a Doctor. How many more, I wonder. Because of the shortage of doctors and nurses, etc., if our health and medical personnel were offered work in foreign countries and they accept ~ and they may well do so, considering their unsafe working conditions here, who will suffer? Are our cops ~ especially the rank, if not the file ~ capable of thinking these issues and the possibilities thereof?

Ok, Nagaland DGP has just apologized on Twitter to Dr. Nesozol Sazo, who was brutalized by some Dimapur cops last night. But it’s the usual kind of apology that says: “An enquiry is being conducted and action will be taken against those found guilty”. Now, who is making this “enquiry”? Police enquiring the Police? And, what if this “enquiry” doesn’t find anyone “guilty”? After all, so many enquiries and their findings never see the light of day and/or their dates are continuously extended. Remember the March 5, 2015 enquiry, to cite one example? No, the DGP’s apology doesn’t mention the timeframe for this enquiry. The brutalized Doctor, the health and medical fraternity, the public of Dimapur and indeed the people of Nagaland deserves an apology from Dimapur’s Commissioner of Police. He must also be held responsible. Meanwhile, Nagaland’s doctor community must demand that the culprit cops are immediately suspended during the time of the DGP’s stated enquiry, demand that their services are terminated, demand that the Police Department fully pay for Dr. Sazo’s treatment and compensate him with a brand new car. The fear of a Police State in Nagaland, particularly in Dimapur is very real. We simply cannot allow a Chhattisgarh-like scenario in Nagaland. The consequences of unbridled power are only too well known ~ and we are seeing them at close quarters all over again.

Yes, yes, it was good of the Chief Minister and others in authority to inspect medical centres dedicated to fight this virus in the event it strikes Nagaland but really we can do without PR exercise at the moment. At this juncture particularly, we must trust our health and medical personnel and have faith that they are doing their best and will not let down the people ~ despite shortage and scarcity of the necessary wherewithal, as also other constraints, to fight this virus. Besides, “Stay Home” and “Stay Safe” is meant for everyone because the virus does not discriminate. You may have noticed that a good number of leaders across the globe are not moving around inspecting the “battlegrounds” but they are holding daily press briefings directly informing and updating the public on all aspects of the “war” in their respective countries and also through social media, which our Prime Minister and Nagaland Chief Minister are yet to begin ~ except through Twitter. But how many people are on Twitter? Technology must be used to inform, update and reassure the public and more importantly not to put other people at risk. Hopefully, the condemnable incident at Dimapur last night (April 3, 2020) will make us realize that in these abnormal times, normal things jeopardize the lives and limbs of people. This reminds me of historians recording how events have been shaped across the globe not so much by what leaders have done but more by what leaders failed to do (in this case, staying home).

And if it is not bad enough that Dimapur cops go around bashing people ~ which they are not supposed to do despite the lockdown, shutdown, Sections 144 and 188, etc. ~ now the Kohima Police have set their eyes on the Press. You must know by now that the today (April 4, 2020), the Media at Kohima woke up to find their movements restricted by the Police. You will remember that the Prime Minister himself solicited the support and cooperation of the print and electronic media to fight the Coronavirus. So, we must ask haven’t the Police here been briefed about those exempted from the lockdown and shutdown? Or, is there a kind of “over-enthusiasm” in Nagaland Police Force empowered by hence intoxicated with so much power under various Sections of the CrPC and IPC due to the present pandemic?

The two deplorable incidents at Dimapur and Kohima cited above are not the only instances of Police high-handedness and arrogance. Indubitably, there are many such incidents of high-handedness and arrogance the public has suffered at the hands of the Police. Right now most (in fact, all) such victims are unable to come out in the public and tell their experiences nevertheless they will always remain in their hearts and minds. These are the appalling experiences that must be recorded and documented because they make our stories, which in turn make our history. As also, the stories of how the milk of human kindness amongst us flowed at this time. This history that is being made now is crucial because it will further define who and what we are, what we have become, as well as define our changing value-systems. Posterity will come to know exactly where and on what we stood during this period, as well as how much of human-ness we discarded or embraced in this time of crisis through this history. Hopefully, our historians, social scientists, writers, poets and other story-tellers will take note of this.

PS: I just got a Whatsapp forward claiming to be the “incident report” of what happened last night at Dimapur vis-à-vis brutalizing the Doctor on social media. Suffice it to say I laughed when I read it ~ but more on it after verification because we don’t go by social media posts and forwards, so we’ll wait till this “report” is officially released. Ah, Dimapur’s Commissioner of Police has just verified that the Whatsapp “incident report” of last night’s incident is fake news. Our Cyber Crime Branch must get down to work on the double.

Now, please don’t forget to wear masks, wash your hands, stay home and stay safe. You see, failure to do so may invite the danda-wrath of our cops, which has now become more ominous than the Coronavirus.

PPS: I am filled with this sense that the Police will barge into my home and arrest me any time. Must be a kind of phobia (or is it mania?) brought about by being cooped up for days or because of the brutality and violence of the lockdown and shutdown. Or both.

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