The killing of SHO Subodh Kumar Singh on December 3 in Bulandshahr, during violence by a mob allegedly agitated by cow slaughter, called a nation’s attention to the climate of impunity in Uttar Pradesh — particularly in the Yogi Adityanath regime, and especially on matters related to the cow. Now, the aftermath of the crime shows just how casual, how banal, murderous bigotry has become in the state. Even as the prime accused absconds after filing a complaint of cow slaughter, and puts out video messages, the local BJP MP hands him a certificate for “noble and eye-opening work” — and the police takes his cue. Four days after the death of the policeman, the police has reportedly shifted the focus of their investigation from nabbing the accused to probing the alleged cow slaughter. “The cow-killers are our top priority… At this point of time, the cow carcasses are the main issue”, Additional Superintendent of Police Rayees Akhtar told this newspaper. In a state where the criminal justice system was already prejudiced and thin, vigilantism in the name of the cow has introduced a dangerous new breakdown that folds in the administration even as the political leadership abdicates.
The danger is this: What happened in Bulandshahr will happen again. Unless the cycle of impunity is broken, the crime will be repeated by those who are emboldened by the political message that it is possible to wound and kill in the name of the cow, and get away with it. While the cow has become a pretext for mob violence in several states, it is especially so in UP, where ever since it came to power, the BJP government has signalled that, in a state of teeming problems and dysfunctions, cow protection is its top priority. Of course, the cow is a political motif — it stands for a rampaging majoritarianism that targets the minority community and/or all those who stand in its way. Its increasingly intolerable toll must make Chief Minister Adityanath, a star campaigner for his party in poll-bound states, pause and ask himself if this is the model of governance that he wants to be known for, and project in other states. And if his answer is yes, his party must ensure that wiser counsel prevails.
After all, as the dominant party on the national landscape, the BJP can ill afford to countenance the impression that it is with the mob in its confrontation with the rule of law. The web of complicities in UP must be broken. It should begin with bringing the murderers of Subodh Kumar Singh to book, swiftly and surely.