The killing of the UP inspector points towards an institutional crisis
Improving law and order was one of the key poll planks of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its campaign for the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. It swept the elections, but on the law and order front, things never really improved despite a spate of encounter killings. Now, they have reached a nadir with a mob killing an on-duty police inspector in Bulandshahr district of the state on December 3, 2018.
The sequence of events suggests a premeditated design to create trouble. Cow carcasses were found in an isolated area. A mob gathered in no time in the name of demanding action against alleged killers. It went to a police post, indulged in rioting and arson, and killed two people including Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh. While a probe has been announced and one should wait for its findings, the state needs to answer some questions.
It has been clear for some time that there are organised groups in the state which are always looking to create trouble, even unleash lethal violence in the garb of protecting cows. Does the police and the intelligence machinery have any idea about their activities? If yes, what has been done to take pre-emptive action against them?
The illegality of cow slaughter notwithstanding, the issue has often been used to create communal polarisation. A local Bajrang Dal leader has been named as one of the accused in the Bulandshahr violence. Shouldn’t the political arm of the state and those seen close to it try and defeat this tactic rather than encouraging it by using such rhetoric themselves?
Last, but not the least, is the issue of the preparedness of the police force in Uttar Pradesh. In retrospect, it is clear that the police party of which Inspector Singh was a part was overwhelmed by the mob. Why was adequate force not deployed in time to prevent this situation? That this is the same police force which has faced a lot of flak over many dodgy encounters, including that of a business executive in Lucknow, shows that it has been erring on both sides: applying unnecessary force where it is not required, and failing to defend itself when under attack. Does this not point towards a deeper institutional crisis within the Uttar Pradesh police?
Ensuring that the killers in the Bulandshahr incident are brought to book is the responsibility of the state’s criminal justice system. As far as the larger questions discussed above are concerned, the buck stops with none other than Yogi Adityanath, who heads the executive in Uttar Pradesh.