Even as this writer was winding up this article a new headline popped up on the home screen. It read - Saharanpur: One shot, 4 Dalits attacked with swords while returning from Mayawati’s rally.
Has goonda raj returned to Uttar Pradesh with ferocity twice over? Was law and order situation a shade better or worse in the Akhilesh Yadav government? The two questions are so intricately inter-twined it is hard to answer one with precision without attempting to answer the second, and, yet, without a wee bit of guesswork you know you are closest to the answer than you were ever before.
But, let’s try and solve the riddle for you. Let’s rewind a bit and go back to days of hectic political campaigning for the state elections three months ago and recall Bhartiya Janata Party’s onslaught against the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh.
The party spared no efforts in decrying the Akhilesh Yadav government for worsening law and order in the state. No less than the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the attack against SP government urging people to vote against a party that encouraged and nurtured goonda raj and rise up to elect a party which can deliver them from prevailing insecurity and criminalization of politics.
As a result of its massive blitzkrieg the BJP reaped a bumper harvest winning the elections with over three-fourth majority in the UP assembly. It was BJP’s moment of delivering what it had promised. Enter Yogi Adityanath into the scene. He made all the right noises as would a chief minister whose party had not only won the set, game and match but had delivered a crushing blow to its political rivals.
Even before the people could square up to the potential of a saffron-robed monk-turned-politician in the new avatar of a chief minister Yogi had already won the day for himself by talking tough on criminals and almost stopped short of bragging he had the panacea for all ills plaguing the state, but promised ‘achche din’ nevertheless as had his more famous and senior party from Gujarat before taking over his new assignment in Delhi as the country’s Prime Minister in 2014.
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So far so good. It was time to get down to brasstacks. So what does a powerful chief minister with a backing of over 300 party MLAs and a loyal band of coalition supporters in a 400-strong Vidhan Sabha do to give strong signals that he wanted a more enduring climate of peace and tranquility by chasing away criminals and potential anti-social elements? Well, the new CM announces setting up of an ‘anti-romeo’ squad.
The anti-romeo squad only turned out to be a vainglorious attempt at moral policing as young innocent couples were spotted, rounded up, questioned, humiliated and interrogated by men in Khakhi. This was monk-turned-CM Yogi’s attempt at pop nirvana; reaching a state of bliss and happiness himself but failing to realise it has only aggravated people’s sufferings. The drive triggered a public outcry as the newly-installed Yogi government fumbled to have a re-look at it to avoid bad press.
“There shall be no place for criminals in Uttar Pradesh. Either they will be chased out of the state or the jails shall be the most suitable resting place for them.” Chief Minister Yogi’s statement should have wrung terror in the hearts of criminals. But the saffron-robed chief minister failed to match up his words with action.
Even as he decided to shut down illegal slaughterhouses cow vigilantes were allowed to have a free run. A lynch mob lurks in the vicinity ready to pounce on an innocent. A parallel social media rumour mill provides the necessary grist to these cow vigilantes known for their grisly attacks on suspects transporting beef ( cow meat ) in other states ruled by the BJP.
In the past over two months since Yogi has taken over murders, dacoities, rapes, communal and caste conflicts show no let up rather indicate an uncomfortable trend.
The twin murder of bullion traders in Mathura sent shock waves across the traders community. The victims were battered to death as the murders were captured on CCTV. It was easy to make out the assailants had no fear of the law. In fact, soon after Yogi was sworn-in, two daughters were raped before the accused wiped out the entire family of four in Allahabad.
In Lucknow, two sisters were murdered in broad daylight right inside their home. Similar killings took place in Chitrakoot. A young trader’s murder in Yogi’s own parliamentary constituency, Gorakhpur, only adds to the long list of woes indicating no let up in crime.
In fact, between March 15 to April 15 ( Yogi was sworn-in on March 19 ) rapes in UP rose four times and murders rose up twice as compared to the figures in the corresponding period in 2016. This is the data provided by the state police itself. There were 179 rapes recorded in April alone as compared to 41 rapes in the corresponding period in 2016. More than double the number of people were murdered – 240, as compared to 101 in the corresponding period the previous year.
Even the Allahabad High Court expressed concern over the soaring crime in UP as a related matter camp up for hearing before the bench of Justice D B Bhonsle and Justice Yashwant Verma. The bench directed the principal secretary ( Home ) to rein in criminal and mafia elements.
So far the state government has sought to counter the worsening law and order by effecting large scale transfer of police officials. The Yogi government has transferred more than 200 police officials in the last two months.
Two months into the government and CM Yogi is already under siege by opposition parties on the issue of law and order. But he appears surprisingly unruffled by criticism. He likened the recent crime incidents to “the last few breaths which come very fast before death.”
If murders, rapes and dacoities have marked the almost ten-week old Yogi government the May 5 Saharanpur clashes between upper caste Thakurs and Dalits point towards another grey area where police action leaves much to be desired. Dalits protested loud music being played by Thakurs during a function to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput King Maharana Pratap. Minor skirmish snowballed into a full-blown clash with both sides indulging in stone-pelting. Later, a group of Thakurs ransacked and burned down over 25 Dalit houses. In the ensuing violence 15 Dalits were injured.
Police rounded up many people, mostly dalits. Two weeks later Dalits descended in thousands at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar protesting police’s prejudicial and lopsided role .
The police action or inaction indicates a wilful and deliberate move to silence the oppressed even as it underlines government’s upper caste bias, in much the same way it’s predecessors were accused of protecting a certain caste-clan and patronising criminals.
So, the attack on Dalits yet again on May 23rd was enough to indicate the caste cauldron will be allowed to simmer under the Yogi regime as well for political mileage. What was the provocation for those Dalits returning from BSP leader Mayawati’s rally, which was in response to the upper caste violence against Dalits in Saharanpur earlier this month, to be attacked with guns and swords.
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Will hate crime and caste conflicts continue to have a free run in Yogi’s Uttar Pradesh. Is Saharanpur the new Una? Will Yogi allow a humongous majority in the Assembly go down the drain without effecting a matrix of change it was most expected of him. Or is the new trend the proverbial straw in the wind in Yogi’s UP.
So far there is nothing to indicate the Yogi government has any workable strategy at hand to restore people’s faith in law and order. The new administration in Lucknow seems to be working only to widen the differences when tackling crime should have been Yogi government’s differentiator.