India is currently reeling under the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with some states and pockets bearing the brunt of the cases and fatalities.
Several states have imposed a partial or full lockdown. While authorities are struggling to keep people inside houses to prevent spread of the virus, how far should they really go in implementing pandemic-related guidelines on the ground?
This debate has been stirred by a viral video from Tripura showing a district magistrate (DM) disrupting a wedding function.
If one reads news reports about the incident, one concludes that a no-nonsense responsible officer penalised an irresponsible gathering for violating Covid-related rules.
So serious, in fact, he is regarding his duty that he ordered the marriage hall to be sealed for a year, booked the entire crowd under Epidemic Disease Act and even scolded the police for being “hand-in-glove” with the violators. Applause!
The visuals, on the other hand, are far from savoury and raise questions on the conduct of authorities with citizens.
Here’s what the video shows:
The DM enters a wedding function with a crew including policemen. As he is ordering the wedding attendees to be sent to jail, a woman produces a piece of paper and pleads, “Please see, sir, we have the permission.”
The DM tears the paper and says, “The permission is for marriage, not for marriage beyond 10 pm.”
Next, policemen are seen wielding lathis on attendees while the DM screams, “Where is your mask?”
The team enters a room where the bride and the groom are in the middle of a photo shoot. There are sounds of screams of women, while DM screams, “Get out, all of you. Is there nothing called law in your eyes?”. The DM then directs the police, “Thrash them with a danda and take them all out.”
Next, the team enters the dining area and orders them all out. “Get out immediately,” the DM screams amid sounds of lathis.
“You people have violated government order willfully. Arrest these guys,” the DM directs the police. He then pulls a male member of the wedding party and throws him at the police, saying, “Bring the cameras. Show his face. Arrest him for obstructing government servant on duty. This guy has to be arrested.”
A woman pleads, “We are wearing marks.” The DM thunders, “This is not about mask. Arrest these people also.”
A man says, “We have the permission, sir.” The DM replies, “Arrest him also.”
“Beat them up. Assholes. Hit them, bloody assholes,” the DM’s voice is heard.
Next, the video shows a man, part of the wedding party, politely telling the DM that the auspicious time of the wedding is at 11 pm, to which the DM says, “Do it at your home, inside your room, not in a marriage hall…You seem to be an educated man, don’t talk like a bloody villager and uneducated person.”
The man says, “Sir, don’t talk to me like this, I am a surgeon.”
The DM pushes the man towards the cops and says, “You catch hold of this guy, for obstructing a government servant on duty.”
The man says, “It is my sister’s marriage.” The DM replies, “You should be arrested first.”
The cops take the man away amid his pleads that he is not obstructing a government servant on duty.
News reports later said that the DM is West Tripura Magistrate Sailesh Kumar Yadav. The wedding ceremony was going on at Manikya Court, a marriage hall at North Gate of the Palace Compound in the area. Reports said that 30 people were arrested and released later.
The DM’s conduct has been widely criticised on social media. Besides social media users, political party leaders too spoke against it.
Opposition leader Manik Sarkar from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) called the incident as unbecoming of the post of the DM. West Tripura Member of Parliament (MP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pratima Bhoomika said she would visit the bride’s relatives and speak to them, calling the incident as “undesired”.
Some BJP MLAs in the area wrote to authorities asking for removal of the DM.
Amid this, the bride's brother, Subhrajit Deb, has written a Facebook post giving his version of the events.
Deb called the incident as “unpleasant” and appealed not to be judged “inappropriately”.
Deb shared some documents, saying that the auspicious time for the marriage as per Hindu religious timings was 11.30 pm and this had been mentioned in the documents submitted to the DM office for permission. Dev says that all conditions mentioned in the permission letter, which bears the signature of the DM, were met.
He wrote, “So sir, Dr. Shailesh kr yadav ji, IAS, please tell me where was our fault? When you issued all those orders then why did you tore those papers infront of all? If it was not allowed then why you issued the order to conduct the ceremony? Is it illegal to follow hindu marriage act in my state? Should we not follow the auspicious time (logno)? If we are educated fools sir, then its also uneducated behavior using un parliamentary language infront of a crowd! (sic)”
Deb’s post has been shared more than 2,000 times already. Most users in the comments have criticised the DM.
Now, reports say that the DM has apologised for the incident. “All I did was done during the night curfew period last night and was for the benefit and wellbeing of the people. My intention was not to hurt or humiliate the sentiments of anyone,” Yadav has reportedly said.
Tripura imposed night curfew in Agartala municipal areas on 22 April with a new surge in Covid-19 cases. The state now has 793 active coronavirus patients and two deaths in the last 24 hours.
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