Ved Marwah’s Abiding Legacy as Police Chief is His Failure to Punish the Guilty of Nov 1984 – By Basant Rath

Ved Marwah’s death earlier this month has led to an outpouring of praise from fellow police officers.… This is ironic, since his stint as police commissioner ought to have marred his reputation beyond repair in any society that cares about professional policing, not to speak about democracy and the rule of law. Marwah knew the enormity of his professional responsibilities and the political climate of Delhi when he took the baton as Delhi police chief.… an officially estimated 2,733 Sikhs – in reality many, many more – were murdered by rampaging mobs over four days in November 1984. The butchery took place with the direct or indirect connivance of the police.…

IPS officers can keep celebrating Marwah’s legacy for his anti-terrorism domain expertise and academic credentials. But they would do well to remember these questions. Why did he fail to put his foot down and make his presence count in the legal-organisational scheme of things in those three years? Bad police officers who helped the politicians and their goons kill around 3,000 people went unpunished. FIRs were never registered. Investigations were never conducted. Overlooking this troubling legacy in the name of hero worship highlights the extent of the democratic deficit that has afflicted India’s police since Independence. 

Accountability is non-negotiable in a democracy. The 2002 Gujarat riots happened because police leaders like Ved Marwah couldn’t and wouldn’t make Delhi’s big political players and their loyal stooges in uniform pay a price for their crimes. Because politicians in power – irrespective of their party affiliations – know there is no dearth of pliant and pliable officers like him in the IPS.

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