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Posted at: Jul 17, 2017, 12:10 AM; last updated: Jul 17, 2017, 12:10 AM (IST)

The outrage in Shimla

With CBI on the job, keep protest peaceful
The outrage in Shimla
Himachal Pradesh is relatively a less crime-prone state. The intensity of mob anger, stone-throwing and vandalism witnessed at Kotkhai and Theog after the rape and murder of a minor Class X girl is rare for the generally cool-headed Himachalis. The gory pictures of the crime that went viral on social media provoked a Nirbhaya-type outrage. Initially the protest was peaceful. As the crowds of mourners and sympathisers swelled, the air was thick with grief and shock. As is normal in serious cases, a special investigation team (SIT) was formed. But the situation turned volatile after the DGP announced the names of the six arrested persons. 

Rightly or wrongly, an impression had gained ground that the police was trying to shield the real culprits who, according to media reports, belong to influential families. Those picked up were poor workers, including two Nepalese and two residents of Uttarakhand. What appealed to the crowd logic was the argument that why would the suspects from outside the state stay put after committing the heinous crime. If the allegation turns out to be true during the CBI investigation, the state police has a lot of explaining to do. Trust in police functioning is already low. A mere allegation of a cover-up of a crime is enough to work up a crowd and inflame passions. 

Himachal Pradesh is heading for an assembly election later this year. It is natural for the political opponents of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to take advantage of the evolving situation in Shimla district. Given the gravity of the crime, emotions should be kept under control. A peaceful protest within the democratic norms is valid and an exercise of restraint is the need of the hour. However, mob violence or the blocking of roads inconveniencing citizens cannot be justified, no matter how grave the provocation. Members of the civil society should take care not to allow themselves to become tools for cheap politicians. The Chief Minister has to restore public faith in the system which has been badly shaken by an apparently partisan role of the state police.

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