Asra Garg IPS addresses long-time caste issue after playing his role during elections
Vol 2 | Issue 18
When a 400-strong mob came rushing towards the Villur Police Station armed with lethal weapons, and burning tyres, there were few options for Madurai (Rural) Superintendent of Police, Asra Garg. He had to protect himself and the lives of the three constables with him. Grabbing a .303 rifle in his hand, he fired a few rounds in the air, warning the mob to disperse. The sound of gunshots knocked the senses back into the hysteric crowd and it retreated under the cover of darkness
31-year-old Asra, a 2004 batch IPS officer, got nearly killed on the night of May 1 because he dared to challenge the status-quo in a village near Madurai, about 450 km from Chennai.
Impeccable Police Service: Asra Garg has demonstrated time and again what effective policing means
At Villur, the upper caste Thevars don’t allow the Dalits to ride on motorbikes in their streets. A Dalit youth who had broken the rule was assaulted and his house attacked.
Asra, who has been in the news for some of his bold actions against corrupt politicians and criminals, ordered action against the dominant community for the attack against the Dalit youth and five persons were arrested under various sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
He told the Thevars clearly that untouchability was an offence and it won’t be tolerated. However, after the police left the village, the Thevars attacked the homes of Dalits. Hearing about the attack, Asra, who had just left the village returned, only to face the mob’s fury. Later, police arrested about 54 persons in connection with the violence.
Asra, who was one of the officers appointed by the Election Commission during the run-up to the April 13 State Assembly elections to ensure conduct of ‘free and fair’ polls, had taken strict action against ruling party functionaries who tried to distribute money to voters. For this, he had earned the wrath of DMK strongman and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s elder son, M K Alagiri, who is based in Madurai.
However, it was not the first time he had rubbed a powerful politician on the wrong side. During a by-poll to the Tiruchendur Assembly seat in 2009, he slapped a case against the ruling party’s candidate Anita Radhakrishnan for soliciting votes beyond the deadline for campaigning. He had also seized a car belonging to the candidate’s son for transporting huge stock of liquor bottles without proper license.
Activists have welcomed Asra’s crackdown against the obnoxious practice of untouchability, which is rampant in southern districts, but rarely confronted in the manner that Asra did.
“It is good the SP has admitted the existence of untouchability and has sternly warned those who practise it,” says A Kathir of Evidence, a Madurai based human rights outfit that has documented the different forms of discrimination the Dalits are subjected to in Tamil Nadu.
“Untouchability cannot be tolerated,” Asra reiterated, and promised to take proactive measures to end the practice. That an IPS officer is willing to implement the law in letter and spirit is truly encouraging.