S R Darapuri – An upright police officer turned human rights activist, now accused of inciting violence

Image Courtesy: ANI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid rich tributes to our forces and said that more than 35000 of them have laid their lives for the security of our people. Yes, we agree that men and women in uniform work under trying conditions and, despite provocation, remain committed to the rule of law. There have been many upright officers, both in the police and in our armed forces,of whom this nation can be genuinely proud. They are thoughtful and absolutely incorruptible. It is people like them who give us hope. Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat was a highly intellectual chief of Indian Navy, unceremoniously removed by the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee as he raised issues concerning our armed forces and national security and disagreed with the then defence minister, George Fernandez. There is Admiral L Ramdas who has been speaking against nuclearisation as well as communalization and continuously standsup for the people. We have a great police officer, former DGP of the Punjab Police, Julio Ribero,who brought peace in Punjab. There is Sanjeev Bhat, who is facing persecution in Gujarat and being targeted for the crime he might not have committed and for which many ‘valiant’ police officers might go to jail if properly investigated. We have R Praveen Kumar, who has revolutionized the SC/ST hostels in Telangana today, and students from these segments are emerging highly successful from these hostels. He is a thinking officer who has broken the glass ceiling about ‘merit’ and shown all of us that government can do miracles if our officers are given a free hand and day to day interferences in their work is not done by the political parties, particularly the ruling party.

Among many such upright officers was Mr S R Darapuri, who is a proud Ambedkarite and retired as Inspector General of Police from Uttar Pradesh police. Though his home state is Punjab, he made Uttar Pradesh his home as he had worked here all through his life. During his tenure, he has been very vocal about the rights of the marginalized and worked to protect them. Most of the governments, including those of the Bahujan parties, actually did not listened to him much and could never use his brilliance and ideas for the benefit of the community.

After his retirement from government service, S R Darapuri dedicated his life to the public cause, particularly issues regarding Dalits, Adivasis and minorities. He has been very vocal on the forest rights issues and active in the Sonbhadra region, where he contested unsuccessfully for the Lok Sabha. Darapuri has been a regular among human rights activists who have been speaking on various issues such as abrogation of article 370 and cases of violence on Dalits, in particular. He was part of many fact-finding teams in and outside Uttar Pradesh, related to communal violence as well as caste based atrocities committed on Dalits.

Darapuri has been under house arrest since December 18, according to his Facebook post. A report in The Times of India quotes his son as saying that the police had put him under house arrest on December 18, but formally arrested him on December 20. It is clear that Darapuri had called for a political but non-violent protest against CAA, but his family was not aware of his arrest as they thought it is just a preventive house arrest and once the protests were over, he would be released. It is nearly 10 days now and we do not know when he will be released. It looks like the police will file various cases of ‘inciting violence’ against him. A man, who served in the police for such a long period and always stood as a very polite and humane face of the police force, today is wrongly facing charges of inciting violence. S R Darapuri is a Buddhist Ambedkarite and a true follower of Dr Ambedkar’s mission.Dr Ambedkar is, perhaps, the biggest non-violent revolutionary in India after Buddha, and Darapuri and many like him actually follow the path of Dr Ambedkar, for spreading peace and strengthening the fraternity. How can an Ambedkarite Buddhist ever spread violence?

Mr Darapuri has been well-known as an Amberdkarite for a long period. After his retirement, he has been active in politics, and has raised issues of public concern, particularly those related to Dalits and Adivasis. Is raising people’s issues a crime? What is his crime, except that he participates in political meetings and criticizes the government? The other day the Prime Minister asked why protests cannot be non-violent, but the fact is that most of the protests have been non-violent and a responsible senior like Mr Darapuri cannot ever be violent. He was never violent even when he had the power, then how can and why should he become violent at this ripe age of 76 years, when he is not well and needs medical assistance. His wife, too, is not well and needs medical attention most of the time.

We hope that the National Human Rights Commission and other bodies will take note of  arbitrary arrests in Uttar Pradesh and will act fast to get innocent people and activists released. It is people like Darapuri who can be the best bet for a peaceful protest and for building bridges between different communities. He has been an active member of Ambedkar Maha Sabha in Lucknow, but the senior members and his colleagues, who are now supporting the government, are quiet. I am sure they, too, know it well that, political differences apart, Darapuri cannot be a person for inciting violence or engaging in any kind of conspiracy. We hope that fabricated charges against him will be struck down in the court of law and he would be honorably released. It is deeply disturbing that he has to face all this just because he stood up for people’s right to protest and spoke against an act democratically. After-all, as the Prime Minister said,peaceful democratic protests are our fundamental right and should be respected.

There is a message for all – that police personnel or administrative people are a part of the society. While they have a responsibility towards the government, they also have to protect the people and honour the Constitution.There are many upright officers, who stand with the people and who will definitely be serving people after their retirement, as Darapuri and many others are doing. I hope they will understand that while following the diktats of the government, there still is a lot of space to protect people and humanize the police force. It will not be possible, unless the forces represent our social and cultural diversity. This is where the secular parties failed, as they failed to re-create the social diversity of religion and communities in the police force. Hence, for those who look at India with ‘one nation one religion’ idea, it becomes easier to manipulate that idea into an ‘us vs. them’ confrontation. We still hope that good sense will prevail and all the innocent people will be released. Instead, cases should be filed against all those who were engaged in damaging public and individual properties, including those in the police force. A huge democracy like ours cannot have a police force acting like a political militia, but we need an absolutely professional police force which protects people and acts impartially according to the rule of law. We hope the highest court of the land will also act on this and give detailed guidelines to the police. Hopefully, it will also order an SC monitored SIT or a special judicial investigation by a sitting or retired Supreme Court judge, who will inquire into all that happened in Uttar Pradesh and whether the police actions in the state were extraordinarily harsh or not.


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