Bull(dozer) in a China shop of legality!

Shri Adityanath Yogi, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and presumptive Prime Ministerial nominee, has started another trend as he often does. This time, he has blazed his way into the news as ‘Bulldozer Baba’. I remember the movie, Trishul, in which Amitabh Bachchan arrives at a goonda’s lair with an ambulance in tow.  That seems so unmanly now!

Yogiji arrives in a manly and muscular bulldozer instead, announcing his intention to raze the criminal’s house to the ground if he does not surrender. His tactic has just met with earth-shaking success – an alleged rapist surrendered to the police in record time after he saw bulldozers and a saffron army positioned in battle-readiness outside his home. Apparently, more than 50 terrified criminals have surrendered because of this new method of maintaining law and order.

Yogiji’s supporters are over the moon with their tough leader’s tough tactics and some of them have suggested nationwide adoption of this novel method of scaring criminals into submission. Some of them have even suggested that a bulldozer or two be parked outside every police station as a reminder of consequences to criminals. Maybe a ‘Bulldozer Battalion’ will be incorporated into the territorial army to assist in these operations?

The opposition, though, seems to be still recovering from its own share of Mr. Yogi’s bulldozing that it received in the recent elections and has been very minimal in its reaction to this new use of a bulldozer. A few protests have appeared in the media but they have been feeble and low key. The UP elections are over and for the next four and half years, protestations will be water off a duck’s back, so why waste the effort?

Filmy dramatics aside, I wonder if anybody has really paused and given thought to the implications of this bulldozer method of getting criminals to surrender. I am no legal scholar so I have no idea if this method is constitutional or not. Of course, I greatly appreciate that Yogiji is taking crime seriously and wants to put the fear of God into criminals. He has probably thought about it far more than I am capable of doing and has all the answers about this new method, including about its constitutionality. But being a simple-minded man, my concerns are more related to daily life, practical and typically ‘common man-ish’ about the application of this new-found law.

So……what would happen if the alleged criminal does not surrender? Would they just go ahead and demolish his home? I suppose that has to be done otherwise the Law will look like an ass carrying a bucket load of empty threats. That wouldn’t be so manly, would it? So now it is a prestige issue and the demolition has to proceed.

Okay, accepted, but what happens to the other inhabitants of the home, the kith and kin of the alleged criminal, siblings, spouse, maybe children and elderly parents? Will they be relocated to a ‘government guesthouse’ till the criminal realizes that Mr. Yogi means business and surrenders? Or will they be thrown out on the sidewalk to fend for themselves, simply for being related to such a low life criminal? What if the alleged criminal still doesn’t surrender? What will the next step be? Will we get the criminal’s extended family to move into the ‘guesthouse’ too?  After that, the neighborhood folks? I mean, you see where I am going with this? I am simply ignoring the legal aspects of doing all this since legality doesn’t count anyway.

Ok, let’s see now. What if this wasn’t a rape, but a murder? Again, I don’t know whether murder is legally supposed to be worse than rape. To me, rape is even worse, but let’s run with it for now, okay? So, for murder, what is the plan? Will it be just bulldozers, or will there be tanks and bazookas? What about multiple murders? Air force and strafing and bombing? What about mass murder? The red button? What about genocide?

No, no, genocide is a bad word, let’s not go there.

You do realize that we are still talking about the ‘alleged’ criminal, the ‘alleged’ crime and the ‘alleged’ victim, right? Nothing has been taken to court, nothing has been investigated and nothing has been proven, even beyond the first shade of doubt, forget the full shadow. Somebody somewhere just filed an FIR about the ‘alleged’ crime and named an ‘alleged’ criminal. And we’ve already brought out the bulldozers and the howitzers and the rest of the fire power? Whatever happened to the principle called ‘innocent till proven guilty’? That foolish ancient rule? Nah, we’re in post-legal mode now. Why should a family pay for the sins of one of its members? Nah, again, we are way past asking that question.

So now, the family is in ‘protective custody’ (I don’t want to call them hostages) and suddenly, the alleged criminal is sufficiently terrified and surrenders. How do we get a confession out of him? Can we beat the daylights out of him or one of his family members? But what if he still doesn’t confess? Can we threaten to start executing the hostages, one by one, like they do in films? Just threaten, I mean, don’t do it. After all, we have them in our custody, right? We have already decided that a crime has been committed, and we have decided that we have the criminal, we just need a confession now.

So ok, now, suppose we get the confession. True or not doesn’t matter, we have it. We go confidently to court. But at the trial during intense cross-questioning, it so happens that instead of the alleged criminal, the alleged rape victim confesses! It could actually have been, for example, consensual sex, an extortion attempt, a case of a mistaken identity, or any permutation and combination of the above. These things happen, you know.

So now, what happens? Where do we go from here? Can the same bulldozer help rebuild what has been destroyed? Can it reverse-bulldoze life back into a home, a family?

Do you think I am exaggerating, taking it a bit too far? In a country where encounter killings are common and vociferously supported by a majority of the population, why do you think ‘bulldozer killing’ has no potential?

Let’s put it simply. A bulldozer is outside a home and the alleged criminal does not surrender. Let your imagination take it from there. Where does it stop? Or does it stop?

Who is going to ask these questions? Who is going to answer them? Or does it not matter anymore?

It’s like the red button of nuclear war. It’s just not a matter of pressing it. There are a whole lot of checks and balances built around that simple act of hitting the button. No one man can do it himself. Literally, it takes a village.

Already, another state has decided to take up the bulldozer strategy. I am sure many other states will adopt it in the near future. Its populist appeal is too good to miss out on. But politicians can be over-zealous especially when elections roll around. Before the practice spreads and something untoward happens, a well thought out process needs to be put in place before the bulldozer’s red start button can be pressed.

I can’t but help think of that iconic photograph of a Chinese citizen challenging a tank to run over him during the Tiananmen Square protests. What if a citizen decides to plonk himself in front of one of Mr. Yogiji’s bulldozers? I hope India will not do what I think China must have done to that globally revered ‘Tank Man’.

To me, it seems that Mr. Yogi has driven the bulldozer into a China shop of legal and constitutional rules and by the time he drives it out the other end, he might end up reducing that shop to rubble, in addition to the criminal’s home.

A bulldozer is just the beginning, not the end.

Let this not remain a one-way conversation! Your opinions are welcome, especially if you don't agree!!