The footage shows police personnel going on a rampage to destroy private property and loot shops, and yet more chillingly, to defy the manual and shoot above the waist at persons in the crowd. With this sharpening picture of the police allegedly abdicating the basic rules of professional and impartial conduct, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan does not have the luxury of allowing the rhythms of routine inquiries to run their course before seizing the situation. He needs to urgently act on the emerging evidence of deliberate police aggression. In fact, the record suggests that a fair stock-taking will, of necessity, have to be anchored from outside the town. Reportedly, a chargesheet filed in the 2008 riots by the Dhule police had claimed as an established fact that Muslims were the masterminds behind all terrorist activities across India. It would be irresponsible to cast a communal colour on the police action without a thorough scrutiny — but when the identity of those felled in police action, in the street version of events, is not seen to be entirely incidental, there lie the makings of an administrative crisis that could spiral out of control.
Dhule town is strategically located on the cusp of two national highways, and its location facilitates the hinterland’s access to wider markets. Muslims make up a quarter of the population. And in the textile industry it has historically thrived on, Dhule speaks of an older inclusiveness, having provided a base for north Indians fleeing the upheaval after the 1857 uprising. The dangers obvious in such a town being torn apart by the suspicion of police mal-intent can only be addressed by reassurance through swift government action.