Updated: June 15, 2015 5:26:43 pm
No one should have to pay such a brutal price in the line of duty. The dying words of journalist Jagendra Singh, ‘Why did they have to burn me? If they had anything against me, they could just have beaten me’, are chilling. They are also probably water off the duck’s back as far as the government of Uttar Pradesh is concerned. The journalist from Shahjahanpur had kerosene poured on him and then set on fire. An attack so heinous that even the jungles of Etawah probably have at least some law of the land.
I live in a Delhi suburb that is a part of Uttar Pradesh. When my friends say they don’t want to drive over to my house alone, even though I am just a kilometre or two outside Delhi, I understand. It is because crime is as much an integral part of the state as Azam Khan’s buffaloes. It is a state where you don’t just watch every step you take, you also keep a close look at the steps others take.
A friend’s relative was forced to withdraw cash in broad daylight from an ATM at gunpoint, several others have told me how their cars have been punctured by thorns meticulously laid out on the road so that they had no choice but to stop and then get looted. Another friend could not file an FIR after a robbery in his factory. The reason, the policeman refused as he had not been bribed. Many people in the state don’t even bother taking their complaints to the police station. They say it is pointless, since a particular caste has too much influence in the state police. The unspoken rule in the state though is, do not stop at night, even if a policeman flags you down.
It is not just at night, in this state fear follows you even during the day. There are people who refused to send their children to well- known schools in Noida, a distance of just ten minutes from their home only because the school is located in U.P. A boy was kidnapped from my children’s bus stop. A gentleman has been attacked in the park across my house while taking an evening walk. And, I live in what everyone considers a safe locality.
We have learnt to live with these incidents. What I am still grappling with is how a script from a bad bollywood movie of someone pouring kerosene on a man and then burnt alive has so brazenly been copied in real life. It makes me wonder if incidents as horrific as this are actually more common in the state than we hear.
Jagendra Singh had alleged on Facebook that state minister Ram Murti Verma was not only involved in corruption, but also in a gangrape. Two weeks after the incident, the minister is still on the run. His supporters as expected justify the horrific attack, saying Singh was a freelance journalist and was not working for any media outfit. So if he had a regular office job would they have spared him? I doubt it. The Akhilesh Yadav government is still to act. Suspending five policeman for a man openly burnt to death cannot even be action ‘seen’ to be taken.
Actually where does the chief minister begin? At least half of Akhilesh Yadav’s ministers have a criminal record against them. One of them, Mehboob Ali, reportedly has as many as fifteen cases against him including charges related to murder and kidnapping and he still isn’t the worst offender. Any wonder then, that lawlessness is the way of life in the state. In his fourth year in office, the chief minister is beginning to resemble his father more and more. Or is it that the reins of power are not, and never really were in his hand.
Mulayam Singh Yadav infamously once said on increasing rape cases that ‘boys will be boys, they sometimes make mistakes.’ He may as well put this comment on a loop. A report by the National Crimes Record Bureau shows that rapes increased by 50 per cent in 2013 in Uttar Pradesh as compared to the year before. Even if there are accusations of political vendetta, a half truth is no less scary. More so is the fact that women and children have never been as vulnerable as they have been during Akhilesh Yadav’s rule. So much for hoping that this man with his youthful thinking and foreign education would rise above caste politics and goonda raj. His response, google crimes in other states.
One of the worst riots in the state have been during Akhilesh Yadav’s tenure. Sixty people were killed, thousands were left homeless after the communal violence in Muzzafarnagar. So how did the government react? By spending crores on an event which had Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit performing, just days after the riots.
If you live in Uttar Pradesh it is best to not expect. An entire green belt was demolished to give into Mayawati’s whims, extravagance and narcissism. She may be back in power before I finish counting the elephants standing grandly on pillars in the park that she dedicated to herself and her mentor Kanshi Ram. A generous Rs 685 crore spent on a memorial in one of the poorest states in the country.
Between the poor and the powerful, the law and order in the state is only on paper, or perhaps in the minds of the politicians. As Jagendra Singh slowly fades away from the headlines, there is news of a young girl being burnt alive in Fatehpur, after her father stopped some intruders from plucking fruits. Will either of these families get justice? Tough to say, after all the Chief Minister, is not for nothing a veteran of controversies especially in a state where a buffalo has more value than a human life.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.