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Rights

'Politicians Are Not Kings': Woman Slams Ahmedabad Police's 'Request' to Keep Windows Closed

As Union home minister Amit Shah was scheduled to open a community hall on Sunday, the police inspector of Vejalpur asked residents of five apartments to keep their windows and doors closed for five hours.

When Pankti Jog, a resident of Ahmedabad asked the local police as to whether we lived in an authoritarian or feudal state and whether ministers were kings under whose diktats the praja (the citizens) had to live under and not based on democratic principles, she meant it. Literally.

Local police in Gujarat in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, issued instructions to about 300 residents to keep all their doors and windows in their homes closed for three hours. But it took one woman, Pankti who for very valid reasons raised the question.

The police circular issued by Vejalpur police station read, “very obediently we would like to inform that respected home minister of India Shri Amit Shah is visiting this area to inaugurate a community hall on Sunday. Since he belongs to Z security, his security is important so on Sunday July 11, 2021, please keep all your doors and windows of your apartments or other homes, closed from 10 am to 1 pm”. The circular was issued by the police inspector of Vejalpur, L.D. Odedara.

The order issued by Vejalpur police asking residents to keep their doors and windows shut for three hours on Sunday. Photo: By arrangement

The police served the notice to residents of at least five apartments such as Swaminarayan Park Society, Swati Apartments and others. About 300 residents had to keep their doors and windows closed in the middle class locality. The notice was served to these apartments on July 10.

Vibes of India confirmed that there were no such instructions from Amit Shah’s security team, which comprises of 55 personnel including ten National Security Commandoes.

Amit Shah is in Ahmedabad for two days. On Sunday, he inaugurated over ten programmes, and foundation stone laying services, for APMC, aanganwadis and smart classrooms.

Gujarat goes to polls in December 2021. His inaugurations yesterday included a library, a civic centre, a water distribution project besides this community hall inauguration at Vejalpur.

By the time you read this story, Amit Shah, as per his schedule would have attended the Mangala aarti of Lord Jagannath at 4 am on Monday. This is an annual ritual that Amit Shah tries to stick by for decades.

After the Vejalpur police issued the circular to different societies, chairmen and secretaries of these societies ensured that the request was strictly followed. And this petrified Pankti, a 44-year-old lady living on the third floor of the ‘A block’ of an apartment in Vejalpur.

She has asthma since childhood and no fresh air hurts her lungs badly and gives her asthma attacks. So, she went to the Vejalpur police station to inquire whether “we live in a democracy or are Ministers still the Kings”.

When Vibes of India contacted PI L.D. Odedra, Vejalpur police station, he said, “We requested the residents, we did not force them. The request to keep the doors and windows closed was made so that the slightest movement near the inauguration site could be noticed. The buildings were adjacent to the community hall and that’s why we had to take precautions”.

Pankti, an RTI activist who is proud Goan-Gujarati sent an email to the police commissioner’s office in Shahibaug regarding the ‘request’ and they eventually acted upon it. She also took to Facebook and wrote:

Everyone has accepted has [t]he invisible rule of keeping their doors and windows close when a politician is passing through an area. But there is no such rule in the Z plus security protocol. Police tells us something authoritatively and we believe it.

Today the Vejalpur police has clarified that they have just requested and not ordered us. The question is not about keeping the windows opened for two hours. But why should the Government decide how I live in my own house.

Pankti Jog. Photo: Vibes of India

Asserting that we live in a democracy and not an authoritative or feudal state, she wrote:

“Today, the government will tell me to keep my windows closed. Why should the Government decide this? Today it is windows, tomorrow this government will decide what I eat and where I go,” she asked.

She also wrote:

“Another important point is that a[n] MP, MLA, Minister is not a God. They are the ten-headed demons we read about in Puranas. There is no need that we fear them and completely surrender to them. They are public servants, public representatives. They have to answer the people. They are bound to answer us.

If all the poor people selling vegetables and other things would have unitedly raised this issue, they wouldn’t have had to keep their small businesses shut for three consecutive days.

More fearsome than government rules, or pressure from political workers, more fearsome, worrying and bad is that we fear, we listen to authorities meekly and we do not raise questions.

“Around 1500 vendors work in the Vejalpur area and all of them had to shut their work for three days. Who will compensate for their loss? It is a known trend of the government to attack citizens’ freedom through their protocols,” Jog told Vibes of India on Sunday night.

Vibes of India reached out to the Ahmedabad police commissioner Sanjay Srivastav who lashed out at the local police who issued this circular. “Inspector Odedara is a senior and experienced police personnel and it wasn’t expected of him to indulge in this act. Necessary action will be taken against him,” he assured Vibes of India.

Senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said, “It is the responsibility of political leaders to create convenience for people, solve their problems and not add to it. If politicians feel unsafe in a public place they should avoid their frequent visits to inaugurate places. The community hall can operate even if it is not inaugurated by the home minister.”

Union home minister Amit Shah in Vejalpur. Photo: Vibes of India

He also highlighted this inappropriate behaviour of politicians a few weeks back when a 50-year-old woman died of post-COVID-19 complications in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur after the car ferrying her to the hospital was stuck in traffic during President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to the city.

However, the BJP denied the incident and appeared aloof about the police commissioner’s statement of initiating action against inspector Odedara. In fact, the Gujarat BJP dubbed this as normal practice.

“It is the prerogative of the security forces to safeguard our home minister. And irrespective of the person the security services have been practicing in a similar fashion for the past 30-40 years.  It’s normal practice. Even during the rath yatra, people are asked to keep their doors and windows shut and it is for their safety. As a civilian, I would abide by the rules and would expect the same from others,” Yamal Vyas, chief spokesperson, BJP, Gujarat said.

Regarding Jog’s concerns, he added, “She could have communicated her concerns to the police and as her problem is genuine; I’m sure police would have given her leeway.”

The question she posed was, “Till when shall we have to go to plead for our basic freedom”.

Along with the post, Pankti Jog posted a famous poem by late Punjabi poet Avtar Singh Sandhu also known as Pash. It reads:

सबसे खतरनाक होता है
मुर्दा शांति से भर जाना
तड़प का न होना सब सहन कर जाना
घर से निकलना काम पर
और काम से लौटकर घर जाना
सबसे खतरनाक होता है
हमारे सपनों का मर जाना

To be buried under the silence is undoubtedly miserable,
But it is still not the most dangerous.
To remain silent in the noise of corruption is undoubtedly miserable,
Reading covertly under the light of a firefly is undoubtedly miserable,
But it is still not the most dangerous.
The most dangerous deed is to be filled with dead silence,
Getting trapped in the routine of running from home to work and from work to home,
The most dangerous accident is the death of our dreams.

This article was first published on Vibes of India. It has been slightly edited for style and clarity.