And neither did the two officers illegally detained by the Kolkata Police misbehave with any woman.
The New Year started on a very sour note for Kolkata and Kolkatans. An ugly incident, involving army officers and high-handed cops marred what would have been the perfect start to 2007—a holiday (January 1, on occasion of Id-ul-Zuha) to nurse the 31st night hangovers and catch up on socializing.
Two army officers, the morning’s papers and news channels reported, had gone to a star hotel, misbehaved with a lady, got into a fight with the bouncers there, were picked up by the cops and, since they were abusive and threatening, were dumped in the lockup. Soon enough, two jeep-loads of officers and soldiers armed with SLRs swooped on the police station, ransacked it, freed the duo and went away.
That is what the police told the media, and that was what the media told its readers/viewers, often with a lot of spice added to it (Our holier than thou Media doing this? How shocking?- Ed). Subsequent events, however, proved the police claims to be false and, as of now, the cops are trying their best to keep away from the court of inquiry set up by the army to probe the incident. Proof enough that the cops have a lot to hide. But more of that later.
So what really happened? The Police said that the Armymen ransacked the Police station, beat up the cops on duty and even let nine hardened criminals escape from the lockup. But their story seems to have wide gaping holes in it already.
Coming back to the New Year’s eve incident, it has now been established that the cops’ version was far from the truth. The actual sequence of events, for the benefit of those who don’t really know (for, a large section of the media hasn’t bothered to follow up on this incident. ed- As usual the drive by media is not interested in following up on any stories it reports to its final logical conclusion), is like this: the senior among the two army officers (a Major and a Captain) who went to the party at the hotel got into some dispute with a woman; the bouncers intervened and tried to manhandle the officer, who fought back in self-defence. The cops were called, and as is their wont, slapped the officer and abused him verbally before hauling him away to the Park Street Police station. The Captain, who didn’t really know what had happened to his senior, launched a search that took him to the road outside the hotel where he was identified by the bouncers and the cops pounced on him as well and dragged him away by the collar to the thana. While he was being hauled off like a common criminal, the officer somehow managed to call up his unit from his mobile phone. And once in the thana, even though the two officers identified themselves many times, the cops, drunk on alcohol and power, threw them into the lockup.
The law says that no army man can be arrested by the cops and put in a lockup save for committing crimes like murder and rape. And if cops detain any army man, they’re duty bound to inform the military police and the local army authorities at once. The cops in this case were either ignorant of the law or, as is more likely the case, simply thought they could get away by violating it as they do every day.
Meanwhile, a few jawans in uniform, led by a lieutenant colonel and another officer, reached the thana and managed to convince the cops there that the detention of the two army officers in the lockup was illegal.
The cops ultimately relented and while the Major was coming out of the lockup, he spotted the cop who had slapped, manhandled and abused him earlier. Losing his cool (as any one who had been wronged would), he shouted at the cop. The jawans, on seeing their officer with bruises on his face and getting to know that it was the handiwork of the cops, were enraged and landed a few blows on the offending cops. But the lieutenant colonel intervened, pacified them, and sent them away with the two officers who had been freed from the lockup by the cops. The lieutenant colonel and the other officer stayed back at the thana to complete the formalities.
In the meantime, the cops, who felt insulted at having had to eat humble pie in their own thana, called up their seniors and together, or so the theory goes, they hatched a diabolic plan to portray the army officers and jawans as marauders and criminals who took the law in to their own hands. There’s reasonable ground to believe that the cops themselves ransacked their thana (Did they also let off the nine hardened criminals to make the staged crime scene look more authentic? That’s a crime which should cost them their jobs – Ed) and invited media persons later to pass off the stage-managed vandalism as having been committed by the army.
This account of the incident is not only what the army maintains, but also what an independent witness, who was similarly physically and verbally abused by the cops at Park Street and put in the lock up that night, has told the state human rights commission.
This was what was pretty much suspected by most people even when Media started reporting the incident in shrill tones with less than skin deep analysis. It is so very easy to take our drive by media for a ride that everyone from a local thanedar to moneyed NGO’s to Pervez Musharraf can do it anytime without much effort.
And there is no other constitutional mechanism to hold the corporate media to account.They abuse the constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Speech to do whatever they feel like and enjoy power without any kind of responsibilty. And ofcourse they rant and froth at the mouth like hell when someone does hold them to account.
p.s- thanks to setu Madhavan for pointing us to this above story, for staying with the story till the end even when the rest of us had in his own words got distracted with other breaking news stories like Nithari and ULFA.