Get over yourselves

Of all the occasions for Delhi's chief minister and police to pick petty battles, this has to be the worst. It is no secret that keeping Delhi safe is not fully in the hands of its chief minister, and that this has always been a sore point with the state government. While policing is usually a state subject, Delhi Police reports to the Union home ministry via the lieutenant governor. This fortnight, as both state and Centre deal with protests after the horrific gangrape of a young woman in the capital shook citizens, the tug of war has been only too visible and unseemly. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who has been at the receiving end of criticism about her alleged attitudes to women's safety, turned the beam on the police, questioning its record and her inability to guide it.

In a clear escalation of the battle, Dikshit wrote a letter to the home ministry, forwarding the complaints of sub-divisional magistrate Usha Chaturvedi, accusing the police of interfering with her recording of the rape survivor's statement and insisting that she use their questionnaire instead. Dikshit's letter flagged the police's alleged actions, and described the SDM's complaint as "alarming and serious." She demanded a high-level inquiry from the home ministry, a request that was granted. Delhi Police has denied Dikshit's accusation, and requested another probe, into how the CM's letter to the home ministry found its way into the public domain.

It is obvious to anyone, apart from the self-obsessed squabblers, that this is terrible timing given the delicacy of the survivor's condition and evidence of the ongoing protests framing new anxieties and antagonisms in the relationship between the state and Delhi's citizens. The protestors, right now, make no fine distinction between the Delhi administration and the Delhi police. As far as they are concerned, both have been unresponsive to women's needs, and on this occasion, harsh on their freedom to dissent. A policeman has been killed in this confrontation. In this inflamed atmosphere, the state and Central governments should have presented a calming and united front, especially because they are both led by the same party. This avoidable row is only proof of the UPA's persistent inability to keep it together in a moment of crisis.

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