Security Lapse Congress-Style
There was something lacking in PM Narendra Modi’s security during his visit to Bhatinda in Punjab on January 05. It was the first of its kind incident that happened in India during the last 74 years of independence. Politics jumped in. The Congress government in the state tried to wash its hands off its responsibility for the lapse but others held it answerable for the PM having to get stuck on a flyover on the road for about 20 minutes. The Supreme Court of India took a serious note of this failure and constituted a five-member committee headed by a retired SC judge to fix responsibility for what happened and suggest steps that such incidents do not occur in the future.
In the first instance, it needs to be understood that Shri Narender Modi — and for that matter, every person in the past — was/is not an individual but an institution, the institution of the Constitution as Prime Minister of India. He may have come to occupy this exalted office by virtue of his party, Bhartiya Janata Party having won the people’s mandate in the election, yet he is the prime minister for one and all in the country. That is why his security is paramount for the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cavalcade was held up for about 20 minutes on a flyover on the road leading to Hussainiwala on that day. It was a situation the country had not witnessed since India won her independence in August 1947.
As per the visuals shown on the electronic news channels, it was only the SGP that could be seen standing alert with weapons surrounding the car in which the PM was sitting. The Punjab police was nowhere to be seen. There are reports that the Punjab Policemen there did not cordon off the PM’s entourage. They were busy taking tea at that time as if no VVIP was to pass that way. The kissan agitators were just about 10 meters away from the PM’s cavalcade. The belligerent border with Pakistan was just about 20 Kms. from that place. That made the PM’s halt there all the more vulnerable to mischief from across the border. Further, PM’s hold-up there made him all the more an easy target from below the flyover,
Since the weather at Bhathinda was inhospitable, an alternative standby route by road should already have been kept in full readiness, as is the practice and requirement.
The leader of the protesting farmers made a disclosure to the media persons that it was the Police officers who told them that PM is traveling by this road.
On January 04, it was announced that the farmers’ unions had agreed not to block the road following an agreement having been reached with the Punjab government. Punjab CM also said that the agreement was the result of a marathon meeting which went on till 03 AM (05 January). But the leader of farmers at that place denied that they had any negotiations with the CM.
It is an essential routine that a police vehicle passes through the route of the PM about 5-7 minutes ahead to ensure that everything is in order for a peaceful passage. On seeing the crowd, the police officers should have made the PM entourage halt much earlier and diverted him by another route to avoid the agitators.
Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi stated that he could not go to receive the PM because he had got infected with Covid-19. If he was, how could he have engaged himself for a marathon negotiation with agitating farmers till 3 AM, as he claimed? Further, there were reports in the electronic news channels two days earlier that Punjab CM would not be present to receive the PM at Bhathinda. The protocol makes it mandatory that the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police of the state concerned should be present when a PM visits their state. It remains a mystery why these two topmost officers were absent.
Punjab government and the ruling party seem to be confused and inconsistent. On the one hand, Punjab CM washed his hands saying there was no lapse on the part of his government and, on the other, he suspended some police officers. After three days on January 08, Punjab government also registered a criminal case against about two hundred people.
It was a good gesture on the part of Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to immediately speak to the CM after the incident and to direct that the lapse should be investigated and the guilty punished. Some senior Congress leaders have also come out in support of an inquiry and punishment for the guilty.
On January 08 Punjab CM once again defended himself and the government on the issue. But the derogatory language he used against the PM has not gone well with the people of Punjab in particular and of the country, in general. His words certainly do not behove a person holding the constitutional office of the chief minister.
The Supreme Court of India has now constituted a 5-committee committee headed by Justice Indu Malhotra, a retired SC judge to look into the whole matter to ascertain what went wrong and fix responsibility. The committee will also recommend measures to prevent such a happening in the future.
This unfortunate occurrence has its ramifications all over the world too. It will send the wrong message about the country’s capability to ensure the safety and security of world leaders visiting India. The SC intervention will certainly infuse a sense of confidence among the people of India and the world that the January 05 incident was an aberration and not the rule.
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator.)
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