In the wake of the recent laathi clashes between AAP and BJP, we can take a few lessons from the Chauri Chaura incident and Gandhi’s reaction.

The recent street protest between AAP and BJP has one clear qualified winner- Laathi centered political lifestyle.

Battle lines for the Lok Sabha elections have been drawn on 5th March 2014- the day of the declaration of Code of Conduct by the Election Commission. The flash point of this week has been the Gujarat Police halting Arvind Kejriwal on his four-day tour of the state to expose BJP’s PM nomineeNarendra Modi’s claim of ‘liquor free’, developing model state. This illegal detention caused massive AAP protests outside BJP’s ‘model’ offices. To help make the situation peaceful and to see such hate stories do not dominate the public space, we need to understand as to why there is no limit to tolerance and why there is no serious organised counselling of political activists before the ‘dharnas’ and protests start.

aap bjp clash 2 Laathi as the Winner in AAP BJP Street Protests

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers demonstrate outside BJP office in Lucknow on Mar.5, 2014. (Photo: IANS)

To understand the role of volunteers in such situations, allow me to revisit history of pre-Independent India; specifically what happened at Chauri Chaura, 19 miles away from Gorakhpur on 5th February, 1922? Around this day, the public anger was for the fact that the police was protecting the liquor shops’ business. Liquor was targeted against men who spent their earnings on alcohol and did not participate or contribute to the Freedom Movement. That day, approximately 2000 people got angry. Anti-Liquor lobby as a new agenda took over the Non-Cooperation Movement.

Causality Score Card of Civilians-Police clashes?

Protesters killed in the police firing were three and several were injured. The result was that the police station in Chauri Chaura was set on fire and 22 Indian Policemen were trapped and burned alive.

Indiscipline of Unorganised Protesters

In India, today, a law enforcing mechanism with a danda (baton) is expected to deliver. Those who are weak, use the danda. Nothing has changed since the Chaura Chauri incident. People, led by political parties, continue to protest against the police and competitive political atrocities while claiming to follow Mahatma Gandhi and his preaching.

MK Gandhi was deeply hurt post the Chauri Chaura incident as he felt the Congress and the Khilafat Movement had not educated the volunteers properly. What was missed out was that the local leaders allowed the Mohalla Sabha, which wanted the liquor shops to close, to dominate the anger. Congress called off the Non-Cooperation Movement and Mahatma Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to 6 years in jail with a delay to freedom of India by at least five years. Even post this incident, Congress had no plans to improve the Sevak Dal or the volunteers’ response where the Hindu Maha Sabha volunteers also participated.

AAP BJP clash Laathi as the Winner in AAP BJP Street Protests

BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters clash during a demonstration outside BJP office in New Delhi after AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal was detained by police during his Gujarat tour. (Photo: IANS)

Both BJP and Congress are often found attacking the poor people for political gains. For example, a young BJP spokesperson, Nalin Kohli was caught on camera with a laathi during the AAP-BJP Delhi clash. He shamefully ‘self certified’ to the media and the police that carrying a laathi during clashes is like copying the Gandhian walking stick. Political parties who conduct ‘laathi drills’ under the hidden mask of culture need to rethink their principles. In Lucknow, AAP and BJP clashed with laathis mounted and many are now in the hospital or in jail. Kejriwal was apparently stopped and delayed for unfair reasons by the Gujarat Police regarding the number of vehicles in his convoy, and over a possible violation of the model code of conduct. The bigger question remains- when there is no AAP-declared candidate in that place, how can the Gujarat Police act with such a false excuse? Further reports say that at a meeting in Kharoi-Gujarat, a Modi supporter with a black flag hurled a stone at Kejriwal’s car, smashing its windscreen.

What is New with AAP Gandhian Followers?

Modern Gandhi crusaders today are different. Protest against the police is much more articulated and clever with a non-violent tool. Arvind Kejriwal has some guts to at least admit errors and apologise for the clashes.

AAP’s 49 day government had the courage to start by Police Engagement in Delhi. The ex-CM had the guts to invite honest police persons to resign and join the movement against corruption which would have been beyond imagination during the pre-Independence Movement. A reward for police martyrs of Rs. one Crore, instead of the usual Rs. 5 Lacs, for fighting terrorists is also a different reforming trajectory when it was assumed that all policemen were corrupt.

Possible Solutions

Strong effective laws for better police are a must. Politicians Code of Conduct, if delivered in time, can also help. To ensure fewer conflicts the Swaraj Bill with a Mohalla Samitti is necessary. If laws are applied correctly, fast justice can help generate more confidence and more jobs.

Only constructive participation of people, more jobs and effective laws with speedy justice can stop laathi politics during Protest. My appeal to Gandhi’s followers is to come together and help build a Mohalla Samitti first. Only the people actually involved in pooling at the Mohalla level can help choose whether to have a ‘dava’ or ‘daaru ki dukan’ (medicine or liquor shop) in the market or in this case, a political ideology to recognise with. Till then, the ineffective audience must pray to close down shops of daaru, ink, pepper spray, laathis, shoes, Hawaii chappals to no avail.

If you can, suggest to me a safer, more peaceful route then the pending Swaraj Bill?

By Rakesh Manchanda

Also See:
AAP Bijli Hike Andolan May Lead to Quit India Movement: Reader’s Voice
Gandhi Versus Arvind Kejriwal

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