Police say they had rejected the activists’ offer to volunteer
Photographs circulating on social media purportedly showing lathi-wielding Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists, standing near a barricaded highway and checking commuters’ documents, has sparked outrage.
The incident is said to have happened on Thursday near Gudur checkpost in Bibinagar. The photographs showed at least seven persons dressed in RSS uniform — khaki trousers, white shirts and black caps — and carrying lathis, as they ‘checked’ the documents of those seeking to cross the barricades.
The photos were shared by several Twitter users who sought to know in what capacity and under whose authority the activists were present there. The images were also tweeted by the handle ‘@friendsofrss’ which described it as ‘RSS volunteers helping police’. “Why do they have sticks? And what power they hold? Is it authorised? @KTRTRS,” tweeted Sai Kiran, a Twitter user.
Social activist S.Q. Masood expressed concern and tagged Telangana Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy and Rachakonda Commissiner of Police Mahesh Bhagwat and sought a clarification, describing the incident as ‘unfortunate’. “The photos show some policemen standing in the background. This is an alarming situation,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Bhagwat said, “I was informed of the incident and the photos came to me. They [RSS activists]had come to us asking if they could volunteer. We said, ‘Nothing doing’. We have decided not to take help from any religious or political organisation.”
Touching upon the legal aspects, senior lawyer L. Ravichander said that the police was right in turning down any such offer as policing cannot be delegated to any organisation. He explained that the prerogative to stop people rests with the government. “If you are not an authority and are doing this, then it is an infringement on fundamental rights, and therefore, impermissible,” he said, adding that if police personnel are seen in the background in the photographs, it could be perceived as a failure of law and order.