Maharashtra village honours cop with ‘Gen. Dyer Award’!

By Quaid Najmi

Mumbai, March 7 (IANS) Over 5,000 villagers from around Maharashtra’s Vasai town Sunday gathered to witness a solemn ceremony — presentation of the ‘General Reginald Dyer Award’ to Thane Deputy Superintendent of Police Deepak Devraj.

“The award was to acknowledge Deepak Devraj’s brutality against the people of Vasai, women, children, tribals, poor villagers and others who were peacefully protesting in Gandhian traditions,” Shramjeevi Kamgar Sanghatna (SKS) vice-president Sanjay Shirodkar told IANS.

Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer was the British Army officer responsible for the massacre of over 1,500 innocent Sikhs — men, women and children — at the Jallianwala Bagh of Amritsar, Punjab, during Baisakhi Day celebiration April 13, 1919.

Justifying the “award” at a huge public meeting held near the police headquarters here, SKS president and Vasai legislator Vivek Pandit said that the actions of Devraj would shame even “the British Army officer, Gen. Reginald Dyer, who ordered the brutal massacre of innocents in Punjab during the country’s freedom struggle.”

The colourful citation depicted four grinning skulls on each corner, skeletons kneeling on two sides and skeletal hands brandishing gleaming swords. It also showed a picture of Brigadier-General Dyer, the British flag and what is purported to be the British Army flag.

In a lengthy citation in Marathi, Pandit said that “on behalf of the people of Vasai, I present to you a special honour, the Gen. Dyer Award.”

Pandit said in the citation — signed by him as Vasai legislator — that he was on an indefinite hunger strike in accordance with the Gandhian principles.

“But the manner in which you tried to break my peaceful protest conveyed the impression that the country has not yet attained independence,” he said.

In order to break the peaceful protest, Pandit said, Deputy Superintendent of Police Devraj brutally caned the unarmed villagers, tore off the clothes of poor tribal women, and danced on their naked bodies. Policemen went from house to house and hammered women, children and seniorcitizens, Pandit alleged.

“Even I was not spared, you personally broke up my vehicle, looted money, gold chains and mobiles in broad daylight, even a 75-year-old freedom fighter, Neelkanth Patil, was beaten and flung from a height of over 12 feet,” Pandit said, amidst a thunderous applause.

By doing so, Devraj broke the record of General Dyer, Pandit said and solemnly conferred the award on the absentee police officer.

Shirodkar said that over 5,000 people gathered peacefully without the presence of a single policeman during the two-hour ‘award function’ that ended a short while ago.

No senior police officials of Vasai, including DySP Devraj were present in the police station, according to Shirodkar.

On March 5, Vasai town, around 40 km north of Mumbai had erupted in violence as police attempted to break the four-day indefinite hunger strike by Pandit and his supporters.

Over 65 people were injured in the police caning and the crowds retaliated by burning two state transport buses, a police van, damaging other vehicles, and enforcing a shutdown.

The day long crisis ended only after Chief Minister Ashok Chavan personally intervened and spoke to and urged Pandit to call off the agitation.

Chavan assured that he would solve the main grievance – delinking of 53 villages from the Virar-Vasai Municipal Corporation – within a week.

Meanwhile, Home Minister R.R. Patil has ordered the IGP-Konkan Range to conduct an inquiry into the alleged police excesses during the March 5 agitation in Vasai.

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