Written by Sandeep Panday and Kushagra Kumar
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has on numerous occasions claimed that the state has been rid of criminals, who have either been killed in encounters or have got their bails cancelled and gone back to jail since he took over the reins of the government. However, newspapers reveal a different picture. In the last few months, serious crimes are reported from the state almost every single day. So, what is really going on?
Adityanath knows only one way of controlling law and order, which is by using brute force and intimidation. He described it as “thok do” policy, that is, delivering summary justice through the elimination of criminals. However, the impact seems to have been quite the opposite. The criminals appear to have no fear left considering the frequency of crimes being committed in the state. Unusual incidents like the hijacking of a bus for ransom have taken place.
The government withdrew 16 cases against Yogi Adityanath, among them attempt to murder, criminal intimidation and rioting, after he became CM. A co-petitioner against him in a 2007 hate speech case, which was lodged after the intervention of the high court, was convicted in a gang rape case and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The actions of Yogi Adityanath are politically motivated and that is the basic problem. The government demonstrates amazing alacrity in registering cases against its political opponents. Several cases were registered against activists and common people for alleged violence during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens. Among those booked were civil rights activist and advocate, Mohammad Shoaib and retired IPS officer, S R Darapuri, both of whom were under house arrest when the violence occurred. The UP government, even before their crime was proven in a court of law, sent notices for recovery for the damages during the violence and put up photographs on hoardings at prominent places in Lucknow. Blatant misuse of police and state machinery to further the government’s political agenda made it obvious that the CM was not serious about improving the law and order situation, but merely using it for political vendetta.
This had two effects. One, the criminals were emboldened. They knew that because the actions of the government were politically motivated they would get away with crimes by pulling the right strings. Especially, the criminals with upper-caste background seem to believe that it is “their” government after a long rule of Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Caste leaders. Whether it is the accused in the gruesome Hathras rape and murder case or the daylight killing in Ballia in a dispute over the election to a Fair Price Shop ownership in the presence of the sub-divisional magistrate and circle officer, the administration and government have been accused of aiding perpetrators of the crimes.
Second, the police, having realised that so long as they toe the line of the government nothing will happen to them, have also been emboldened to take the law into their hands. Burning the dead body of Hathras rape victim in wee hours while preventing the participation of the girl’s family is an example. Another example is of the Mahoba Superintendent of Police, who was allegedly involved in extortion from mining businessmen and had openly threatened a businessman who was not complying with his demands. After the businessman — Indrakant Tripathi — was killed, the SP went underground and has not been inaccessible to the Special Investigation Team appointed by the state government. The UP police could trace a youth all the way to his village in Odisha and arrest him for tweets against the CM and Prime Minister. It is incredible that the same force is unable to trace its own officer for investigation.
Yogi Adityanath may be right in saying that criminals have been eliminated or are in jail, but that is only one part of the story. Now it is the state machinery that is accused of perpetrating crimes or patronising criminals aligned with the ruling party. The CM has to realise that the only way law and order can be established is by following the rule of law, even though it may be time-consuming, and by being just and fair. Arbitrariness and highhandedness will only lead to anarchy. Political abuse of the machinery can never set things right. The shortsighted and sectarian worldview of the CM prevents him from realising that his approach is the source of the problem. Instead of taking corrective steps, he seems to be repeating the same mistakes. For instance, the UP government has announced the formation of Special Security Force with powers to search or arrest without warrant or order of a magistrate. What Yogi Adityanath appears to seek is more power to persecute people but without any accountability. However, these draconian measures, as the history of such laws show, are sure be misused and will fail to deliver the objective for which they are being instituted, which is improving the law and order situation.
A most recent example of how the UP government has got its priorities all mixed up is the case filed against peace activist and leader of Khudai Khidmatgar movement, Faisal Khan. Khan was accused of trying to disturb communal amity because he performed namaz in a temple in Mathura. The police chose to focus on the namaz action overlooking his 84 kos parikrama of Brij, reciting verses of Ramcharitmanas in the temple and accepting prasad and blessings from the priest, all in a very congenial atmosphere. The police went from Mathura to arrest Khan from his Delhi residence, where he has built a Sabka Ghar, a commune dedicated to victims of discriminatory violence. In the past, Khan, who was honoured by Morari Bapu in Mahua, Gujarat, had walked from Delhi to Haridwar in support of saints fasting for the conservation of Ganga. He is also on the trustee board of Sarva Dharm Sadhbhav Trust in Ayodhya, meant to create an all faith harmony centre there. The action against Khan proves that the UP government has lost the ability to distinguish the right from the wrong.
Panday is vice-president, Socialist Party (India), and Kumar is a student
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