First, the good news. The four suspects in the alleged cow slaughter case in Bulandshahr were released on 18 December, following the admission by the Uttar Pradesh police that they could not find any evidence.
The bad news: the Uttar Pradesh police have still not been able to trace the main suspects in the chilling murder of police officer Subodh Kumar Singh on 3 December, who fell victim to mob violence for trying to broker peace.
Now comes the ugly bit. Rattled by criticism by his mishandling of the investigation of the Bulandshahr violence, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is seeking refuge in conspiracy theories.
He still thinks the government’s main task was to nab the alleged cow slaughterers and not the arrest of those suspected to have killed the police officer. Activists of Bajrang Dal and a youth wing leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party are the two prime accused in the murder. “There will be rule of law in the state at any cost. Those who wanted to create unrest and lawlessness by killing cows, they have been stopped," said the saffron-clad chief minister in Lucknow recently.
Yogi Adityanath’s underplaying of the cold-blooded murder of Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh is born out of his natural defence of his party and the Parivar affiliates, and his convictions being rooted in Hindutva.
As a soldier for the cause, he shall walk the extra mile to not only defend things close to the saffron heart, but shall also reject any hypothesis that connects the mob fury to the general climate of religious chauvinism.
A Martyr for the ‘Wrong Cause’?
Therefore, the chief minister appears to give more than a cogent hint that those behind the alleged cow slaughter were also the ones who caused the police officer’s death. Once the alleged cow slaughterers are arrested and tried in the court of law, it will be no surprise to see the slain police officer projected as a martyr in the cause of Hindutva, rather than being shown as someone who stood his ground to thwart communal discord.
Clearly, the rule of law should be the top priority of any government. But Yogi flounders on this score. He tries to create a framework of binaries through which citizens ought to legally see a cow, dead or alive – all under the over-arching umbrella of cultural nationalism.
Those who tend to see the cow through the binaries set by him are obviously on the favourable side of the administration, like the frenzied mob on 3 December that got spurred on by the whisper campaign of a cow carcass found in the city. Those who were allegedly behind the cow slaughter fall on the other side of the law, that the administration shall seek out sooner than later.
Deliberate Ambivalence in UP’s Administration
The chief minister reads lawlessness in an alleged slaughter of a cow because he appears convinced that the act smacks of the involvement of the people from the Muslim community.
This is where a exclusionary regime can easily slip into prejudices. The idea is not to identify the guilty here because that is already pre-supposed. The state takes vicarious pleasure in building an exclusionary narrative in which the purported crime is not an individual offence to be subjected to the rule of the land, but something for which the entire community shall have to bear the cross.
It is this deliberate ambivalence that is the hallmark of UP administration as it drags its feet in arresting the accused behind the police officer’s murder.
The UP chief minister’s recent remarks only adds to the charade. Here is a chief minister who, despite graphic evidence leading up to the killing of the police officer and the seemingly murderous intent of some of those in the mob (of which the key accused were part of), appears more concerned about punishing the alleged cow slaughterers. Almost the entire police machinery has been mobilized to hunt them down.
The fact that some innocents like Sajid, Sharifuddin, Banne Khan and Asif are easy collateral is worth the risk.
The police inspector’s alleged murderers are in hiding ever since, and the Yogi administration seems to have absolutely no clue about them. The accused had the gall to record a video message on what according to them transpired on the fateful day. They used their secret network to make those video messages viral, even as the UP Police looked the other way.
Bureaucrats Write to Yogi Administration
It is against such a turn of events that over 80 retired bureaucrats have written and released a signed open letter pointing out the “politics of hate” in the state. The open letter tears into the Yogi administration.
"In UP, fundamental principles of governance, of constitutional ethics and of humane social conduct stand perverted. The Chief Minister acts as a high priest of the agenda of bigotry. Hooliganism and thuggery have been mainstreamed into governance... " the letter stated.
The former bureaucrats have appealed to the Allahabad High Court to take “suo moto cognizance” of this incident and order a judicial inquiry under its supervision to “uncover the truth, fix responsibility and recommend action.”
BJP’s Prospects in 2019
The BJP won 71 Lok Sabha seats out of the total 80 in UP in the 2014 general elections. The state’s share was 25 percent in the party’s overall tally of 282 seats leading it to form the government at the Centre by a simple majority.
The BJP under Modi has milked the cow enough, and expects an abundance of votes in 2019. The right noises over the Ram temple construction, the BJP believes, shall only bolster its electoral chances. But the recent electoral defeats in three Hindi belt states does not augur well for a party whose slogan of sabka saath, sabka vikaas remained what it was – a mere empty promise.
(Prabhat Shunglu is a senior freelance journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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