New Delhi: A day after the police crackdown on anti-rape protesters at India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde justified the police action. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Shinde said, "We face criticism from all ends. Rashtrapati Bhawan is a prestigious house for the country and protesters were breaking down public property."
"When it went out of hands, hooligans joined the protesters, we had to act and use force. One policeman is seriously injured. We can't identify the goons in 3,000 people," Shinde added.
When asked why he did not go to India gate to meet the protesters, the Home Minister compared the protesters to Maoists saying, "It's very easy to say that the Home Minister should go meet protesters there. Tomorrow if BJP workers demonstrate or if Maoists demonstrate with weapons, will I go and meet them too?"
He also said he felt bad at the use of force, but stopped short of saying sorry. Shinde said that a probe has been ordered to find out who prompted violence during the protests at India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan. "I have already put my officers on job to inquire on what happened at India Gate. We will inquire who are the groups, we will arrest and bring them to book," Shinde said.
But the Home Minister remained silent on whether or not the Delhi Police Commissioner should resign. "I don't want to comment on commissioner of police. I will not spare anyone and look into the role of those responsible," he said.
Shinde said that the government was committed towards the safety of women. "We all have daughters and we are serious about their safety. We expect media to assist us in this great work," Shinde said.
Speaking on how the government will ensure strict action in rape cases, Shinde said that a meeting has been called on January 4, 2013 to discuss action in such cases. "Today I'm going to talk to have a day to day hearing. Lt Governor and CM they both have committee of home guard and civil defence, I will ask them to start that immediately. A lot of rapes are happening. On January 4, I have called the meeting of Chief Secretaries and DGPs on rape cases. I will take account of each and every state," Shinde said.
He also ruled out the need to have a special Parliament session. Following is the full transcript of Rajdeep Sardesai's interview with Sushil Kumar Shinde:
Rajdeep Sardesai: I have with me the man who should be in charge of the situation Home Minister of the country Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde. There is a feeling sir that the government has lost control of the situation. Yesterday tear gas, water cannon, lathicharge on peaceful protesters, entire area barricaded, and media has been driven out from India Gate. It appears the government is either petrified or simply has lost control of the situation.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: You people criticise us from both the sides. Day before yesterday, demonstrators went right up to the North Block and they were trying to go to Rashtrapati Bhawan. They broke barricades. Rashtrapati Bhawan is very prestigious. It is the image of the country. If they had managed to go there, you would have criticised me. And therefore, we have to go strict.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, sorry to say but the image of the country right now is also being affected by peaceful protesters being lathicharged, tear gassed and water cannoned. Yes there may be anti-social elements, but you please identify them, and not the peaceful protesters.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Mr. Sardesai you must listen to me. It has gone out of the hands of the demonstrators. Hooligans and gundas have reached there. My one policeman is very critical and 18 policemen are injured.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Arrest the gundas.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: They cannot be identified in 3,000 people. It is your duty, demonstrator's duty to find out who those people are and separate them from the peaceful protesters.
Rajdeep Sardesai: It is the job of the police to identify those anti social elements and not use such disproportionate measures to control the protesters.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: The incident happened on the 16th (of December). The next day morning by 12, all four accused had been arrested. Subsequently, remaining 2 accused were arrested. We had publicly announced that we will take to fast track court. Not only that we have said that stricter laws into ladies affairs will be brought into action. And yesterday I announced a committee with three member judges - one Supreme Court former chief justice Justice Verma, one high court chief justice from Himachal Pradesh and Solicitor General Gopal Swami. And these imminent people have been given a time of one month to decide what type of punishment should be given as far as rape cases are concerned.
Rajdeep Sardesai: I take your point sir, but let us for the moment just focus on the disproportionate use of forces.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Use of force, when you are proceeding towards Rashtrapati Bhavan, I think you as a common man, I as a common man, we should understand that it is a prestigious place for the country.
Rajdeep Sardesai: What about those at India Gate? Why lathicharge them? Many of them were women. Why evict them?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Yesterday, I had already put my officers to enquire into that. But the preliminary information is that they started throwing stones on the police and the barricades were broken.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Do we know who these groups were? Were these groups trying to discredit the peaceful protest?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: We will enquire and we will book them. We will not let them go like that.
Rajdeep Sardesai: If they are anto social element you should arrest them.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Yes, we will arrest. We will not let anybody go like that. Day before I had said, government had taken 5 reaction, where in we cancelled the license of the bus, I made a statement in both the Houses, I spoke to the member of Parliament, I also took 2-3 press conference. And in all the press conference I assured them government will take action.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Instead of press conferences, why don't you go to India Gate? You could have spoken to the protesters. Nobody wants to engage with them. These are ordinary Indian students.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: It is very easy to say that home minister should go to India Gate and talk. Tomorrow, if any other parties engage in demonstration, why shouldn't the home minister go there, why only with this? You answer me, tomorrow if Congress party people will demonstrate or tomorrow BJP will demonstrate. Tomorrow, Maoists will come here and demonstrate, why should the home minister go there?
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, please do not compare these students to Maoists. These are ordinary citizens who are not just students. There are also housewives there. Ordinary people have come.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: You don't separate the law and order. I had already, right from day 1, I met them in my house, I met them in my office and I met their representatives. They should have been satisfied, but after chanting "we want justice, we want justice," what kind of justice are you expecting? Either you only give justice. There are some limits. We accepted all the demands.
Rajdeep Sardesai: People are losing faith in the government, they want things to be decided within a time frame. They don't want assurance. They want the trial to begin within one week. Why cant you start the trial in one week in this particular case?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Today I will talk to the persons concerned and will decide quickly. And for future, a committee of the home guards and civil defence will be attached to every police station, and I will ask the lieutenant governor and the chief minister to start that immediately. In the country, there are many places where rapes are happening. Thereby, the government has taken a note of it and on 4th of January I am calling a meeting of the countries chief secretaries and DCPs in Delhi.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Will you ask every state to have a fast track court? Why cant you ask that within a time frame every state should have a fast track court to deal with rape cases?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Yes, in that meeting, I will take account of each and every state, what is the situation in their state and what is being done. It takes time. It cannot be done immediately.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, in the past we have seen that government gives assurances and nothing happens. Will it be different this time?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: At least this government, under the leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, is very serious. Person like Sonia Gandhi met the delegation of students at midnight. They should have responded to that. Why did they take the law into their hands the very next day?
Rajdeep Sardesai: Mr Shinde, people believe that the assurances are not enough, they have lost faith in the government.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Sonia Gandhi had taken action. She had immediately telephoned me after that. You can expect to talk one minute and get the action the next minute.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, why did the prime minister chose to address the nation today. The incident happened more than one week ago. Why couldn't he do that earlier?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: I appeal to you and all the electronic media to understand the situation. Today we are in the government but tomorrow we may no be. But we are also citizens. I said publicly, I, my colleagues, and even the police, we all have daughters. I have got three daughters. You too have one daughter. We are very serious about this. And I appeal to you that you also assist us in this great work and the government will do everything it can.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, one of the concerns is the police commissioner's role. Absence of leadership is the fear. Decisions have been taken in adhoc manner. Even Sandeep Dikshit, your own MP has called for his resignation. Will you consider that the police commissioner must step down?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: During such times, I do not like to talk about such things. Once the situation is calm and quiet I will look into it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Will you take into enquiry the role of police in decision making?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Certainly I will and nobody will be spared.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Because so far only people have been arrested are five constables who have been arrested for dereliction of the duty in the original case. Not even the senior policemen.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: I do have some information. Some senior policemen are also coming under suspension. I do not have the full information. But one thing you must also see, on the night it happened, the police on that line, they searched on CCTV, and out of 4-5 CCTVs, only 2 were working. And from one of them they got the footage. And they went to the forensic labs and developed it. It did not even take 24 hours to trace the accused.
Rajdeep Sardesai: I understand that in this particular case they acted with alacrity, but there are so many rape cases, where the police takes such a long time to even get the FIR registered. We have found in the past that evidence gets distorted, convictions don't take place, therefore sir, will the entire system change now? The worry is that once the protesters leave, government will have a "chalta hai" attitude and forget about it. Will things change now?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: That is the reason why I have called DGPs and chief secretaries. Its not "chalta hai". I took over four months ago. And the actions we have taken is in front of the public. I wont praise the government but it is all in front of the government. I am a public man.
Rajdeep Sardesai: There is a lot of public anger towards the police. Not just in this rape case, but generally how the police deals with involving the aam aadmi. There is the khaas aadmi who gets all the security and the aad aadmi does not get the security. People are angry about the fact that why should only the VIPs get all the security? What about the aam aadmi. Have a special force for the VIPs, and the rest of the force for the aam aadmi.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Certainly I will look into and it is a good suggestion.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you saying that you are ready to have a special force for VIPs and aam aadmi.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: I will certainly examine. I have all the suggestions with me and I will examine it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: One suggestion is that there should be a CCTV cameras in police stations when the FIR is being registered. That it is recorded on camera.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: It is a good suggestion and I will consider it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Will all this happen within a time frame? It cant take 2-3 years. Can we expect them to get implemented within 3 months? Maybe a special session of Parliament.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: CCTV is different and Parliament.
Rajdeep Sardesai: I am saying shouldn't all parties come together and come up with a series of measures.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: There is no need of the special session. You will see the action we do. And you will realise that yes there was no need of a special session of Parliament.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Can you give a time frame for this action?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: We have given one month's time for this committee and I will act as soon as possible.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir there are too many committees and DGP meetings in India. People want more this time. The anger and loss of faith was demonstrated yesterday. They were peaceful protesters who were targeted.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: I understand the anger. Because they have suffered. I have seen that in 4-5 past year. You have to understand. Can the government keep quiet.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir do you apologise the crackdown on the innocent people?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: When people are in the crowd, it happens. I feel bad for them. If I have said I feel bad why do you want a particular word for that? You should read between the lines. This could have been stopped the day they met Sonia Gandhi because we are all working under her leadership and if she has assured action, they should have stopped.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir why cant a Sonia Gandhi, a Manmohan Singh, a Rahul Gandhi come and meet these protesters?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: I told you that if we come once, they will expect us to come everytime.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Sir, this is the rarest of rare case. We don't see this happening everyday.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: No. As a journalist should understand the difficulty and the government's role. The government should not go anywhere. Tomorrow a hundred aadwaasis get killed somewhere in Chattisgarh, everyone will say government should go there.
Rajdeep Sardesai: What is wrong in that? Sir, when 20 children died in America, Barack Obama addressed the nation that night itself. Why does it take the prime minister of India one week to address the nation. Why cant all this change?
Sushil Kumar Shinde: The prime minister was taking meetings with us. He was taking meeting. The statement that we had prepared, he is the part and parcel of that statement. Day before's statement was written under his direction.
Rajdeep Sardesai: People feel that politicians are no longer engaging with them. They want to hear and talk to you.
Sushil Kumar Shinde: Ok.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Mr Sushil Kumar, thank you very much for coming here and joining us.