I am currently the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Lahar in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh. Lahar is known for its lawlessness, its caste based rivalries and its illegal sand mining. To do the SDM work here is like refereeing an El Clásico match on a daily basis. One of the major functions of the SDM is to remove encroachments (Atikraman ) on the Government land.
For removing encroachments the legal provisions exist in the Criminal Procedure Code under Section 133 for the SDM , in the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code under section 248 for the Tehsildhar , in the Madhya Pradesh Nagar Palika Act under section 187 for the Chief Municipal Officer.
A typical case came on the 2nd of March where one community had constructed an Ambedkar statue without permission on a government plot in Janakpura, ward 14 of Lahar Nagarpalika. The community living next to it had raised objection and a law and order had built up. This mode of encroachment is very common in this belt where a community would either raise a mandir or a statue of a public figure belonging to the community on a government or private land and then appropriate the land. It is sad to see constitutional figures and universal Gods used as apparatus of encroachment.
The administration took immediate action and visited the area and asked the community to remove the statute which was erected overnight. The community was given 24 hrs. notice to remove the statue otherwise the administration shall take action. The community neglected the orders and hence the administration moved in to remove the statue. I with the Nagar Palika and the Revenue staff reached the area. We also called the police to reach the spot.
On reaching the spot we found that around 20 women of the community has surrounded the statue and one woman ( Sarlaji, who would remain the central protagonist of this event ) was holding a rassi ( rope ) and was screaming “ Agar Babasaheb ko hata diya toh main faazi dedoongi yehi par prashasan ke saamne” ( I shall hang myself in front of the administration if the statute is removed!). We directly walked towards her and I snatched the rope and threw it away. We removed the women with minimal force but the my gunman held them on one side. We started removing the statue from its foundation and replacing it onto a different space.
Suddenly the crowd erupted, they started throwing bricks and dried cowdung at us. Then the women set fire to the small store huts around us and the dried cowdung also caught fire. The police had not reached the sight yet and there was complete chaos. I asked my Tehsildhar Naveen who was with me “ What are we going to do?”. Naveen was a man with great composure “ Sir, nothing will happen just engage the crowd a bit, till then the police would arrive.”
Sarlaji by that time had started her magnum opus. As the fire surged she came running and hugged the Ambedkar statue and started screaming and crying “Ae Samvidata ke daata yeh aapke saath kya ho raha hain” ( Ae Father of the Constitution what is happening to you? )“Aaphi ke karamchari aapki ninda kar rahe hain” ( Your own officers are humiliating you ). Naveen went to her and told her “ Kuch nahi ho raha, aap chill maro aur shaant raho” (Nothing is happening, you chill!). Then she came running to me “ Beta, maine tumhein apna beta maan liya beta, teri maa bol rahi yeh mere Babasaheb ko mat hatao beta” ( I have made you my son, Son! please do not shift Ambedkars statue!)
I was suddenly taken back to my childhood and Star Plus, the fundamentals Saans Bahu soaps came for my rescue. “ Maaaaaa” and I went for her feet touched them. “ Mujhe yeh murti hatane ka ijaazat dedo maa, varna ladayi hojayegi, hum iss murti ko sahi samman kisi aur jagah peh rakh lenge” (Mother, let me shift this statue, otherwise there shall be a riot and let me keep it in a different place). Then she fainted and fell on the slope and started shaking. We decided to remain in front of the statute and not move until the police arrived.
The police came 45 minutes late, as they entered there was silence and I took advantage of it. I came forward and spoke to the community. I addressed two things, one why is it wrong to erect the statue of Ambedkar on public land?. This had to be addressed as many people were not educated enough to understand this and hence were led astray. Second, the nature of the offence that they had committed by attacking Government officials on duty. I detailed the consequence of such a crime , an fir on the adolescents and they cannot attend any government exams and would not receive any institutional help from the government. If you want to save the futures of your children remove the statue and keep it elsewhere.
Some of them asked “ yeh toh Ambedkar saab ki murti hain , inhon ne hi Samvidhan likhe hain, aap inke karamchari hain toh phir kyun inke ninda kar rahe? ( This is the murti of Ambedkar saab who wrote the constitution you as officers have been created by him, then why this removal and why this humiliation? ). I replied saying the father of the Constitution has laid procedures on how we should erect statues of public figures, you need to put a request and we would allot you land to do so and then you can place the statue, by showing no respect to his laws you are humiliating him, we aren’t. This made the public quiet and they started discussing among themselves. I moved away from the statue and sat in the shade with my Tehsildhar and Nagar Palika force.
The discussions went on, their men slowly started appearing and started deliberating with the women. After an hour they approached me and told that they are ready to remove the statue and keep it in a private place. I agreed not to file any FIR against anybody. Then they lifted the murti and kept it in their plot ending the entire affair.
A boy who was throwing stones at me an hour ago suddenly ran towards me and asked “Sir, aap IAS ho?!!, App ke saath ek selfie le sackte hai?” ( Are you an IAS officer, can i get a selfie with you?). And that is the beauty of the service, its deep roots among the public due to works of great officers, we enjoy great respect and trust. I said to the boy “ Zaroor”, and we all including the woman who was opposing us the most took a photograph with the statue of Ambedkar. The administration then walked out solving the issue in one of the best possible manners.
A day later I got a call from the same community they wanted to officially apologize to the administration in a formal function. We attended the function and listened to their grievances. The next week in put camps for BPL cards, Ayushman cards in the ward, also sanctioned a new road in the ward. I had a lot of pressure to register FIRs but I did not citing the reason that most of them were women from a disadvantaged community.