law and order

In court complex where Kanhaiya Kumar was attacked, police say they can now tackle any situation

A year after the Patiala House Court incident, police and lawyers say security at the complex has been heightened.

In February last year, the Delhi Police came under criticism for standing by as a mob assaulted students, professors and journalists gathered at the Patiala House Court, where then Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested in a sedition case, was to be brought for remand proceedings. Just a little over a year later, the city police went a step ahead when they not only failed to control violent clashes between student groups in and around Delhi University’s Ramjas College but also reportedly participated in them.

Despite their poor show at Ramjas, police officials insist that the probability of a similar mob attack breaking out at the Patiala House Court when the sedition case is next take up for hearing is close to zero.

Mob memories

In February last year, three JNU students – Umar Khalid, Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya – were arrested in a sedition case after members of the Right wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad accused them of chanting anti-national slogans during an event on campus. On February 15, a mob that included several lawyers attacked students, professors and media persons who had gathered at the Patiala House Court, where Kumar was to be brought. Some fellow laywers were also beaten up. Violent scenes were reportedly witnessed inside the court room too, despite heavy police deployment in the Patiala House complex. A repeat of this was seen on February 17, when a group of lawyers assaulted Kumar while being brought to court.

A year later, the Delhi Police, who were heavily criticised after the assaults, claim that they have increased security measures at the court complex and maintain that such an incident will not take place again.

“At Patiala House Court, we have intensified security in the past one year, which is regularly monitored by senior officials,” Special Commissioner and Delhi Police Spokesperson Dependra Pathak told Scroll.in. “We are ready to deal with any situation.”

Senior lawyers at Patiala House Court said security arrangements at the complex – including increased deployment and equipment such as a baggage scanners and CCTV cameras – has been at an unprecedented level since last February’s violence, which they insisted was a one-off.

“The possibility of something terribly wrong happening can never be ruled out,” said advocate Manoj Taneja, who has been practicing at this court for more than 26 years now. “What matters are the arrangements and strategies of the security apparatus to deal with such situations. And the picture now seems to be much better than what it was till one year ago. There is no reason for lawyers to feel unsafe.”

R K Wadhwa, who was the president of the New Delhi Bar Association when the Patiala House Court incident took place, said that over the past year, there has been “tremendous change” in the security arrangements in the court complex. “The police have definitely learnt a lesson after the February incident in the court last year which has led to much higher police presence in the court,” he said. “I believe that now the police are in a position to handle any unexpected situation much better than what they did in 2016. Lawyers are safe.”

Lawyers clashed in Patiala House in 2016.
Lawyers clashed in Patiala House in 2016.

Nationalism debate

Scroll.in also spoke to the three lawyers – Vikram Chauhan, Yashpal Singh and Om Sharma – who had been chargesheeted for their alleged role in Patiala House assault last year. The three, who are yet to receive court summons, did not speak about last year’s incident as the matter is sub-judice.

According to Singh, the events in JNU last year had led to a “wave” of nationalism across the country. “This is a good thing,” he said. “And later we witnessed the Supreme Court guideline on National Anthem too. But there was a negative impact too. We have witnessed the anti-India rhetoric being dragged with regard to several issues, including the Kashmir issue, in universities across the country. There is also a wave of dissent – like protests even against the guideline of standing for the national anthem. Such subjects are not meant for debates.” The apex court in November said it was mandatory for cinema halls to play the national anthem before screenings, and that moviegoers must stand up for when it is played.

Sharma, meanwhile, said he had done nothing wrong. “I will boycott all those who speak against the country,” he said. “I have not done anything wrong and I have full faith in the judicial system.”

Chauhan said he was a a victim of media trial. “If an entire group shouting slogans against the integrity of India inside a courtroom is not considered a crime, why should I be treated like a criminal for chanting slogans in praise of mother India?” he asked. “There is nothing wrong in anti-nationals getting beaten up for the things they say.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.

Play

SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.