Targeting anti-social characters and those with criminals records is good, but maintaining social harmony by pre-empting communal trouble is an equally important task.
There are two aspects to the unfortunate violence that gripped Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh recently. The first is the attack by a mob on police personnel which resulted in two deaths —that of a police officer and a civilian. Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, the in-charge of Siyana police station which falls in Bulandshahr district, was shot dead after he sought to pacify a large crowd of people protesting against reported cow-slaughter in the neighbourhood. The agitated mob also indulged in mayhem, setting the public property on fire. Earlier, the people had arrived with carcasses loaded in tractor trolleys at a nearby police booth that fell in the jurisdiction of a neighbouring village, claiming those to be that of slaughtered cows.
How is that so few policemen went out to accost a clearly violent crowd of people, and most of them fled the spot, leaving the station house officer to deal with the scene single-handedly and lose his life?
The second aspect has to do with a three-day Islamic congregation that had just been organised in the region. Cow vigilantes and even members of the Bharatiya Janata Party alleged that carcasses had been found coinciding with that meeting and that there were links between the two. They have demanded a probe and also questioned the failure of the administration given that cow slaughter is banned and a crime.
Beginning with the first issue, it is disgraceful that a police officer who had tried to placate the crowd should have been shot dead. Those who incited the mob and the one who fired the fatal shot ought to be punished under the due process of law. This was not the first time that cow vigilantes had taken the law into their own hands. They may have been angry over the police’s and the administration’s failures in preventing the alleged slaughter of the cattle, but the violent means they adopted cannot be condoned. The role of a local Bajrang Dal leader in inciting the crowd into violence and arson is being probed. He has been named as suspect number one in the first information report filed. There are others who have been named too.
In defence of the police, it can be said that its personnel were vastly outnumbered and were unable to contain the crowd. But that begs the question: Did not the police have intelligent inputs of an uprising and should it not have prepared itself adequately with reinforced troops? How is that so few policemen went out to accost a clearly violent crowd of people, and most of them fled the spot, leaving the station house officer to deal with the scene single-handedly and lose his life?
The SP seems to have forgotten the Muzaffarnagar riots which happened during its watch, while the BSP’s claim of “jungle raj” sounds pompous given its own track record when it ruled Uttar Pradesh.
The second aspect is equally critical. What arrangements had been made by the administration to ensure that the Muslim congregation refrained from doing something that would trigger religious passion? If it is true that the carcasses found belonged to slaughtered cows to feed the congregation, then the organisers of the Islamic meeting should be held accountable. Had the organisers informed the administration of the scale of the event?
The State Government has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe into all aspects of the incident. It has already begun its work and one must wait for its findings before jumping to conclusions. Samples of the carcasses have been sent for forensic examination. The role of outsiders in arousing communal passions in the region is also being investigated.
Meanwhile, as expected, a political slugfest has erupted over the incident. Parties opposed to the Right-wing have alleged that cow vigilantes, who have the patronage of the ruling BJP, have been running riot; that law and order in Uttar Pradesh has collapsed under Yogi Adityanath’s chief ministership; and that the minorities are not safe in the State. The State’s two main opposition parties, the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have targeted the Adityanath regime. The SP seems to have forgotten the Muzaffarnagar riots which happened during its watch, while the BSP’s claim of “jungle raj” sounds pompous given its own track record when it ruled Uttar Pradesh.
Nonetheless, the fact is that the Bulandshahr violence is a major embarrassment to the BJP Government in the State, more so when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has repeatedly emphasised that restoration of law and order has been among his important achievements. Targeting anti-social characters and those with criminals records is good, but maintaining social harmony by pre-empting communal trouble is an equally important task.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.