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Police have done well, let them not overdo it 

The ‘theories’ put out by the police in their recent success with solving communal murders are strikingly reflective of the grey and overlapping areas the society of Punjab is grappling with today. Jobless youth looking for an inspiration in life, criminals being celebrated in popular culture, and, ultimately, those who cross the line from anger to violence, whether for a perceived cause or simply for loot. Characters of all variety have been lined up by the police as suspects in various ‘terror’ cases, recent as well as those ‘cracked’ over the past couple of years.

Given the very sensitive episodes of communal provocation that the state has borne with remarkable equanimity over the past two years, Punjabis of all hue deserve high praise for the maturity demonstrated. But the restraint cannot be taken for granted, as history will continue to intrude into the present, and there will always be elements ready to exploit a weak moment.The purpose of any targeted violence, or terror attack, is to provoke anger, cause disturbance. This is where the State’s response to such provocations and developments becomes crucial. Any mishandling, or apparent excesses inflicted by the police on individuals, can end up furthering the goals of the very perpetrators of violence.As recent investigations have revealed, the youth continue to be motivated by memories of a very dark phase in Punjab’s history. They need not be given any more cause for feeling alienated. To put it in plain words, the police should not end up prosecuting any innocent person. As certain cases over the past couple of years have demonstrated, young men charged with grave offences have been acquitted by courts of one charge after another, while some have suffered for years together without their trials making any headway.While the police must be encouraged as well as empowered with all material and legal help in solving every crime, they must also be held accountable for any obvious overstepping of powers. When such instances are ignored, it is a case of the government abdicating its responsibility to an executing agency. The government of the day must remember that the job of the police begins only after a breakdown of law and order; preventing that is a function of governance.In the rigmarole of daily functioning — which currently is more a struggle from one salary day to the next — the government must not neglect to notice the signals from society at large that come its way all the time. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has asked the state police to be watchful of the ‘radicalisation’ message being spread on social media. That is a good idea, but he must be as mindful of the message as the messenger. Checking the relaying of a certain thought may help curb its spread, but that does not alleviate the underlying causes.As of today, the state and its people are receptive to issues of economy and development, and have demonstrated they don’t have an appetite for disturbance. Make use of their desperate need for growth by addressing their dreams. That will be anytime more effective than anything the most efficient of police forces can achieve.As the state Assembly meets for a three-day session, beginning today, all parties — ruling as well as those in the Opposition — would do well to demonstrate restraint, and not try and exploit the recent police investigations merely to serve their constituencies. Speak only what is just, and justified.

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