How are the mighty fallen!
Inherently, Sikkim is not a society given to tiring herself out by making too much noise. However, as unmistakably peaceful as we are, it doesn’t take much to stir us up. One little video/audio clip here or one little headline there, and some of us feel an irresistible urge to weigh in our byte, thus raising our Himalayan noise by several notches. Right now we see two groups of people making themselves heard – in support of and against Akshay Sahdeva, (henceforth AS in this article) Sikkim’s most talked about police officer. Not surprisingly, for the most part, the divide is shamelessly political in its motivation and their claims are boundless in their extremities. The police officer is an undisputed hero to the one and a downright wicked villain to the other.
Undoubtedly, no police officer enjoyed public applause and popularity as AS did. His no-nonsense style, well thought through plans, nearly immaculate implementation and courageous approaches made him almost seem like one of those cinematic ideal police officers. Remember how he arrested some highly influential people and towed away VIP cars belonging to political heavyweights. Such a thing in VIP obsessed Sikkim was undoable hitherto. And yes, like any human being, he of course had his own set of distasteful baggage that made up his personality – a bit image conscious, a bit arrogant, a bit proud of his success, etc. To be honest, we are a bunch of self-congratulatory creatures and we are all guilty of these downsides to varying degrees, are we not?
Now his past deeds have come back to haunt him literally. He is asking people to give him justice. I am not going to discuss the merits and demerits of the case. Let the law take its course. All I am asking here is – how humanly justifiable is our celebration of the suspension of Akshay Sachdeva?
Feeling vindicated is human and no one can take that away from those who were the direct victims of his alleged atrocities. Perhaps if I were one of them, I would not be morally superior enough to feel otherwise. They are faced with the impossibility of being in it and looking at it at the same time. No one has a higher moral ground to judge them. Let them celebrate their perceived victory. But the larger question is this – is it a good sign when other people grab the opportunity to condemn the man so utterly mercilessly? Is it not a case of kicking a man when he is down – attacking him at his weakest moment?
The degree of meanness displayed by some people is simply staggering to say the least. They are so seemingly unpretentiously unaware of their sanctimonious judgement. They have enthroned themselves as the ultimate judge, condemning this beleaguered police officer pitilessly. Briefly put, their charges against AS are(a) he acted like a VIP (b) he gave a press conference too late (c) he was displaying his loyalty to the then incumbent government (d) he used abusive words. Here are a few come back questions: (a) He acted like a VIP – doesn’t a large percentage of influential officers in Sikkim behave like VIPs anyway? I know many officers at the Joint Secretary level who want their drivers to open their car door, carry their bags to the cabin and so on. These are terribly wrong trends – but should we not raise our voices against the system rather than targeting a man when he is vulnerable? (b) His delayed press conference – the timing for such an action is never perfect. If he had done it earlier, would he not have invited trouble for himself? Would these people who are condemning him now have supported him if he had gone to the media earlier (c) He displayed his loyalty to the incumbent government- are there police officers now who would dare to be disloyal to the present government? Does anyone have the courage to say that ‘so and so’ is loyal to the government and therefore must be told off? Would people have supported him if he had defied the magisterial order? This is not to justify everything that happened under his watch as a police officer. Let the law take its course. But to dismiss a man completely for a mistake and make a terrible unpardonable villain out of him is nothing less than meanness. We are not under any compulsion to lionise him for some good things he did as a police officer. We have the right to forget them or at least to choose not to remember them. But as good citizenry, we have good reasons to restrain our personal feelings and wait till the case is fully settled. From a lay man’s perspective, the ‘atrocities’ that he is alleged to have committed seems more like accidental than strategic. The gravity of the attack on the Chief Minister’s vehicle must be factored in while judging the matter. Remember, Sikkim has a much bloodier history of police atrocities. Amnesty International 1994 reported that the traumatic torture of nailing the foot of Biraj Adhikari (a computer engineer, businessman and opposition politician), the death of Dharma Dutta Sharma (Congress supporter), Dhan Raj Tamang (SDF supporter), illegal detention and beating of Rajendra Baid (Editor of Janapath Samachar) detention of Hemlal Bhandari (lawyer) on charges of anti-merger statements were all allegedly committed by the police. People back then had the grace to wait. They gracefully allowed the alleged to defend themselves. People never took the seat of judge and shamed them publically. That is the true essence of an authentic democratic society.
Many of us may hate the man personally, but that hatred and bitterness is best kept privately. I don’t pretend to like the man personally either. Such mindlessly vehement condemnation should stop short of ‘mental public lynching’. No right thinking Sikkimese would want such an attitude to define our state/social characteristic. After all, we are only what we prove to be. Aren’t we?
It would be naive to close our eyes to the following possibilities:
Many are celebrating his suspension for purely private reasons. When he intensified traffic laws for example, many of us, me included, felt ‘harassed’, momentarily closing our eyes to the long-term benefits. He has annoyed many for valid reasons, for which we thought he was a hero.
Such an unforgiving and sanctimonious attitude could disturb our social conditioning, creating far reaching long term ramifications. Sikkim must exercise some amount of gentleness on the matter for now. Let the judiciary handle the case. Let people refrain from passing the final verdict till then.
There is an indubitable enjoyment in poking the eyes of others. The pleasure doubles when the person is relatively successful. It kind of legitimizes deep-seated jealousy. Aren’t many enjoying that sadistic pleasure right now?
In an imperfect world of unavoidable circularity, bad days can come to all of us. The test of character is how we conduct ourselves when we have the advantageous position of kicking a man when he is down.
“There is an indubitable enjoyment in poking the eyes of others. The pleasure doubles when the person is relatively successful. It kind of legitimizes deep-seated jealousy. Aren’t many enjoying that sadistic pleasure right now?”