The myth and reality of law and order in Uttar Pradesh

The myth about the monk-turned-chief minister has unravelled. Neither Adityanath nor his party, the BJP, that had all along trumpeted itself as a “party with a difference”, could live up to the expectations of those who were hoping that lawless UP would soon turn into a paradise under the Yogi. (PTI File Photo)

When Yogi Adityanath rode into the prized office of chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, it was widely felt that at the very least, he would improve the state’s law and order situation. His predecessor, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, had done well to put India’s most populous state on the path to development but all that had come a cropper as he let the law and order situation deteriorate.  

Since the saffron-clad Adityanath was widely projected as a no-nonsense and upright man, he was expected to bring crime under control, after the SP’s goons had had a field day under Akhilesh Yadav. Have things changed now is no more a million-dollar question. The turn of events in the Unnao rape case is proof enough of what has happened.

The myth about the monk-turned-chief minister has unravelled. Neither Adityanath nor his party, the BJP, that had all along trumpeted itself as a “party with a difference”, could live up to the expectations of those who were hoping that lawless UP would soon turn into a paradise under the Yogi.

Realising that curbing corruption, a poll promise, was no mean task since it was thriving under the patronage of the BJP’s own bigwigs entrusted with the task of supervising the state’s governance, Adityanath turned his attention to law and order. However, his inexperience in governance ensured that he got carried away by the advice of the self-serving bureaucrats and sycophant cops who gave him the bright idea of going on an encounter spree. What followed was the gunning down of as many as 67 persons in a span of 2-3 months – each labelled a “dreaded” criminal carrying some reward on his head.

The reality was far from the much-touted claims. Even insiders in the khakhi force confessed that nearly three-fourths of those killed in the ‘encounters’ actually did not qualify as “hardened criminals.” Yet they were made to meet their gory ends as trigger-happy cops had to score brownie points by impressing the chief minister. According to a senior IPS officer, in some cases, petty offenders were picked up, kept in custody, a reward was announced for their capture, and within days they would be gunned down, with the police and government able to claim a “big catch.”

How trigger-happy are UP’s unbridled men in khakhi under the Adityanath regime was demonstrated when an executive of the iPhone-maker Apple was shot dead by an insolent cop late at night in Lucknow’s posh Gomti Nagar simply because the man did not stop his car when flagged down by the policeman.   

Adityanath then went about bandying that the fake encounters had set law and order straight and sending out press releases claiming this “huge achievement.” He remained oblivious of the ground reality that is replete even today with unabated murders, rapes and loot, besides open exploitation of the weak and the downtrodden right under the nose of the administration.

The Unnao gangrape is a glaring example of the extension of ‘jungle raj’, which was expected to come to an end with the departure of the Akhilesh Yadav regime. Like several other criminal-turned-politicians, the prime gangrape accused Kuldeep Singh Senger had earlier enjoyed the patronage of SP and BSP before he became the blue-eyed boy of BJP bigwigs. The “party with a difference” saw nothing wrong in ushering him into the saffron fold simply because of his winnability, which clearly came from his muscle power and the support of his all-powerful Thakur community.

The chief minister’s soft corner for the Thakur community provided Senger greater immunity, which became blatantly visible when the police refused to hear the cries of the rape survivor. What could be a more glaring reflection of the poor law and order situation than the fact that the helpless girl’s father was not only framed in some petty criminal case and beaten to death in police custody because he refused to be cowed down by the rape-accused MLA’s intimidation!

What brought the whole issue into the media spotlight was the self-immolation bid by the teenaged girl in front of the chief minister’s residence in Lucknow last year. Despite that, it took the UP police four days to register a case against the MLA – that, too, after much public outcry and media hammering.

Prior to that, Senger not only roamed the streets of Lucknow as if nothing had happened, he also ensured the arrest of the girl’s uncle in a case dating back 18 years. He even got the man shifted from Unnao jail to Rae Bareli jail, where the girl and her aunts were going on July 28 when a speeding truck with a blackened licence plate crashed into their car.

What showed Senger’s clout in the power echelons was the fact that UP Director General of Police O P Singh sought to justify the delay in lodging an FIR against the “manniya vidhayak” (honourable MLA) two years ago. Even now, while the girl and her lawyer are battling for life following the ‘accident’, the DGP continues to hold a brief for Senger and even for the truck driver who rammed into the victim’s car on a highway. “Prima facie, it looks like an accident which occurred because of skidding of the truck on a rainy day,” was the state’s top cop’s plea on the day of the ‘accident’. Surely, it could not be sheer coincidence that the forensic report filed hurriedly is on the same lines.

The UP government may continue to issue statistics to claim that crime figures have come down marginally since the BJP came to power. The reality remains that the Adityanath government was compelled to act in the Unnao rape case when it got whiff of the fact that the Supreme Court was about to take cognizance of a complaint sent to it by the rape survivor. Even as the directions of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi came later in the day, the UP administration hastily took certain steps to save its own skin. The CBI probe was hastily recommended, as also registration of a case of murder and criminal conspiracy against Senger and his goons. Prior to that, the administration took no cognizance of as many as 33 other complaints sent by the rape survivor and her family members over the past two years to various UP authorities, including to the chief minister!

Had it not been for the apex court’s intervention, how this case would have been treated is anybody’s guess. The less said the better about UP police, who have other priorities like massaging the feet of ‘kanwarias’ or showering petals on them from helicopters to keep the ‘Hindutva’ spewing political masters in good humour at all costs – even if that means using their offices and uniforms to help the political masters settle their personal scores with their rivals. There is surely no dearth of examples of how the law of the land is twisted, turned and violated by powerful lawmakers of every ruling dispensation. The BJP has been no exception.

(The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on UP politics)

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