For almost a month when around a dozen major and minor protests were on in the state capital Gandhinagar, the Gujarat cops put in 18 hours a day and managed to retain their cool.
There is a saying in the police circles: a mob is the best occasion to test your lathi. What this means is, a cop has the unofficial license to beat up anyone who’s part of a group that has assembled at a public place without permission.
For 29 days between August and September, Gujarat’s capital city Gandhinagar saw around a dozen major and minor protests, including that of the Maldharis. In all, more than a lakh people camped at various locations in Gandhinagar, and keeping a vigil were around 1,500 cops.
To ensure no law and order disturbance, three Superintendents of Police (SP), eight deputy Superintendents of Police (DySP), and 22 inspectors were co-ordinating the proceedings with 600 cops from the Gandhinagar district police and another 700 from the Gandhinagar range.
Apart from this, teams from SRPF (State Reserve Police Force) and RAF (Rapid Action Force) were on the standby in case riots broke out.
A senior officer who was part of the bandobast said that the police personnel, especially the constables, put in almost 18 hours a day for 29 days when the protests were on. “We had decided that we will be firm with the protestors but not unpleasant. We did not let anyone upset the law and order situation but we also didn’t beat up anyone,” the officer said.
The state government itself was in the conciliatory mood, with the Gujarat elections round the corner. Be it the Maldharis, or the ASHA workers, or the Transport Department protestors, all were sent back satisfied.
The signal from the government top brass was clear: no feathers to be ruffled during these times. We need to win, and win big to send out a message to the rest of India.
The genial face of the police worked well. The protestors realised they will be spared the stick if they don’t breach the law and order line. Even in sensitive zones such as Satyagraha Camp, Swarnim Park, and Gandhinagar Secretariat Gate No. 1 where agitators had camped, there was hardly any law and order issue.
As the Great Bard said, “All’s well that ends well,” so to ended most of the protests on a peaceful note, and the cops didn’t test their sticks at any of these gatherings.