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Police encounters and ‘secular privilege’ in Indian politics

As with all things in Indian politics, the “secular privilege” extends to police encounters. Because Narendra Modi was Gujarat CM, 5 encounters in Gujarat become more important than 435 in the rest of India.

Between 2002 and 2007, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found 440 cases of suspected “fake” encounters by the police across India. Out of these, only five cases happened to be in Gujarat, which could well be the lowest among big states. But names such as Sohrabuddin Sheikh came to be etched in public memory. They became household names, celebrity causes and in some cases, heroes.

So much so that, in the liberal imagination, this is what India’s history of police encounters looks like today.

Tweet by Pratik Sinha

This is not from a parody account. This is from a person often described by allegedly respectable people as a “fact checker.” Let that sink in.

As with all things in Indian politics, the “secular privilege” extends to police encounters. Because Narendra Modi was Gujarat CM, 5 encounters in Gujarat become more important than 435 in the rest of India. And now, we have media obsessing over everything that Yogi Adityanath’s government does in Uttar Pradesh.

This “secular privilege” is so extreme that I sometimes wonder if BJP ruled states and non-BJP ruled states exist in different universes.

Here is an example: anyone who has ever watched Bollywood movies has heard about the legendary Mumbai underworld. As the Hindustan Times notes in an article titled “Rise of the ’83 encounter batch

Hindustan Times article

The Mumbai Police Commissioner at the time was Julio Ribeiro. Popular culture often celebrated him as ‘super cop.’ As the Hindustan Times notes, many of the officers who served under him came to be known as “encounter specialists.”

Were any of these encounters fake? I have no idea. I wasn’t there. But surely our media, our intelligentsia and five-star activists could ask if they were fake?

But did they? Did any of them dare to ask such questions? Oh, and did any of them ask if Mumbai Police was trying to save powerful politicians who might have links to gangsters?

Of course they didn’t ask. The secular privilege applies. The burqa of secularism ensures that nobody asks questions.

In fact, ‘super cop’ Julio Ribeiro wrote his autobiography which he called “Bullet for Bullet: My Life as a Police Officer.” Excellent choice of title I would say. Maybe the book should be required reading for everyone who believes in due process and concepts such as guilty until proven innocent in a court of law.

In fact, Julio Ribeiro received even more praise from liberal quarters when he spoke out against “intolerance” in 2015. Most tellingly, he said that he feels like he is on a “hit list” because he is a Christian. Well, we have to trust his police instincts in such matters. He was a super cop after all.

Whether “fact-checkers” and historians like it or not, facts remain facts and history remains history. In fact, the reality is one of the structural problems that modern liberalism is facing today.

Therefore, the liberal strategy is to de-legitimize human memory. They have a label for it: whataboutism. Slap a label on something you don’t like and dismiss it. That’s Modern Liberalism 101.

So if you have heard of police encounters in India before Modi became Gujarat CM, you are guilty of whataboutism.

In fact, if you have heard of the 435 encounters outside Gujarat in 2002-07 instead of the 5 encounters in Gujarat they want you to know about, you are guilty of whataboutism.

Put your blinkers on and your memory on hold. Walk the narrow straight path on which ‘fact-checkers’ are leading you. It’s the only way to be (self) righteous.

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a columnist and author.  

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