Stone-pelter or cop? Chennai violence no different from Kashmir

Policemen pelting stones at mobs is not just a breakdown of law and order, but downright pathetic, feels Vicky Nanjappa

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The nation watched in shock as the until-then peaceful Jallikattu protests in Chennai turned violent on Monday. There was even one horrific sight in particular which showed the policemen pelting stones back at the mob.

Screengrab from a video. The woman cop is seen putting down the stone when the camera pans on her. Seconds later, a policeman attacks the camera person, knocking the equipment out of his hand.

Let us rewind to Jammu and Kashmir:It was July 2016 and the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani had led to widespread protests. Stone-pelters were all over the place and the most pathetic sight that one got to witness back then too was the police pelting stones back at the mob.

[Also read: Burhan Wani killing: Here is what he did before his death]

A break down of law and order:

On Monday several groups shared videos of police excesses. One video showed police personnel setting fire to an auto rickshaw at Mylapore in Chennai. Another showed police personnel hurling stones at the mob.

Police lathicharge to disperse protesters during a violent clash with the police near Marina Beach in Chennai.

For starters, the stone is not a weapon that the police allowed to use. Under the law, they are allowed to use their lathis, water cannons, tear gas shells and in extreme conditions, their rifles to fire in the air. Stones are a strict no-no for the police force.

Officers explain that however desperate the situation is, a uniformed force is not allowed to use stones. Amar Bhushan, a former officer with the Research and Analysis Wing says that there are various other options to control the crowds. "In Israel numb bullets are used. Pelting stones at protesters is nothing but pathetic," he adds.

Pelting stones shows that there has been a complete break down. The police look desperate in such a situation. Stones and knives are not weapons that should be used by the police. Such weapons are used by mobs and the police have other means of controlling a mob.

What took place in Chennai is clearly a case of mismanagement. Although the protests were peaceful, there ought to have been better intelligence from the state level at least. There are always elements amid protesters who try and fuel the fire. What made it worse was the behaviour by the police who were clearly seen indulging in arson. It was clear a break down of the law and order mechanism and someone at the top will have to answer and be made accountable.

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