Disturbing trend


The recent violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district, in which one SHO and a youth were killed, is another sign of toll being taken on civic order due to the failure of the government to crack down on vigilante groups. It is tragic that two precious lives including a police inspector have been lost in the bullets fired in Syana area. The violence was triggered when the villagers gathered outside a police post in protest against the alleged cow slaughter and its carcass found in the agriculture fields. Initially, it was rumoured that cow slaughter had taken place in the area and the law enforcing agencies failed to act well in time and the reinforcement was late in arriving at the scene of the protests. The mobs swooped on the police post and the police officials present there with cries of “kill the cops and those carrying the guns”, if the videos that have gone viral on the social media are to be believed. The authenticity of the videos is yet to be verified but some of the people, stated to be accused, took law in their own hands and shot both the police officer and the protestor, who was part of the mob carrying stones in their hands. It is a curious coincidence that the recent violence touches back to the hate crime that marked the beginning of this long spell of vigilante violence over ‘cow protection’ across north India. The deceased police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh had been the first investigating officer when Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched near Dadri, also in western UP, on September 28, 2015 on a rumour that he had beef in his possession. Then as now, an equivalence was sought to be made between the crime of mob violence and murder on the one hand, and the rumoured cow slaughter on the other. The police authorities has charged many persons, who include members of the Bajrang Dal and BJP, with violence, an FIR has also been filed against seven Muslims including some minors for alleged cow slaughter. The minor boys were, however, released when the residents of their area stormed the police station. The Special Investigations Team (SIT) formed for probing the entire incident should reveal whether the mob at the police post formed organically, or whether there was a conspiracy to set up a communally polarising confrontation. In the din of promises of speedy investigation by everyone from police chief to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, there is no equivalent messaging that no rumour or act of cow slaughter justifies mob violence. It was only on Thursday that Yogi Adityanath met the family of the police officers after many days of silence over the entire episode. It is strange that two press notes issued by his office suggest that he has ordered a strict action against those responsible for cow slaughter and those illegally operating abbatoirs but there is no clarity on the line of action to be initiated against those, who incited and participated in the violence that claimed two lives. It is unfortunate that ever since the BJP came to power in 2014 at the centre, its governments in the states have moved to tighten laws prohibiting cow slaughter but have maintained a silence on the cow vigilante groups. This is happening despite the Supreme Court directions to all states to have special squad at the district level to check activities of the self-styled cow vigilante groups. The bands of ‘gau rakshaks’, or cow-protection vigilantes, have created an atmosphere of fear, purportedly acting on suspicion of cow slaughter to round up and lynch at will cattle traders and passersby alike. Investigations into the killing, in most cases, move in parallel with probes into the allegations of cow slaughter or the possession of beef. A pattern that has crystallised, the hurt sentiments of ‘gau rakshaks’ are played up to reinforce an equivalence between actual murderous crime and rumoured cow slaughter. It is disturbing indication to which direction the country is headed for when ‘gau rakshaks’ enjoy impunity and have captured on camera incidents of violence, including that of last Monday. They will continue to have a free run when the state is playing to their sentiments and script across the country.