What does it mean for the rank and file of a police force, the most favoured arm of the state, to feel orphaned? What happens when hooligans who enjoy police patronage turn against their protectors?
All known equations have been turned topsy-turvy in Bulandshahr, first by Station House Officer Subodh Kumar Singh’s murder on Decem-ber 3, then by the UP chief minister’s reaction to it.
In 2006, after two constables were lynched by a Muslim mob after police firing killed two Muslims in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil declared: “If anyone throws stones at policemen, we will answer them with bullets.’’ The NCP leader’s shocking statement only corroborated what police normally do. Even during the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, when the police were openly protecting rioting Shiv Sainiks, they didn’t hesitate to fire at those Sainiks who turned against them.
It is rare indeed for police anywhere in India to take action against a Hindutva mob; they normally treat them with kid gloves. In Bulandshahr too, police did not open fire despite the ferocity of the Hindu mob that wanted action against those responsible for cow slaughter. In fact, according to his driver, SHO Singh was trying to reason with the mob when he was attacked.
Mumbai’s first family, the Thackerays, and their “boys’’, have never been troubled by the police, despite having openly instigated and participated in violence against Muslims and Hindu ‘outsiders’. Similarly in Bulandshahr, the police has never taken action against the main accused in the murder, local Bajrang Dal convenor Yogeshraj Singh, a known communal troublemaker. Even a week after the incident, he has not been arrested, though he and another absconding accused, boldly posted videos exonerating themselves and blaming the officer they allegedly killed.
These videos are a slap on the face of the local police. Will all this change the happy relationship between them and Hindutva groups?
Since Yogi Adityanath came to power in Uttar Pradesh, Yogeshraj has devoted his time to striking terror in the hearts of Muslims in the region. Did this 25-year-old, who boasts on Facebook about his “Dadagiri” and “Hindugiri”, ever imagine this would result in the death of a Hindu policeman? Or does he justify the elimination of a policeman who didn’t endorse the Hindutva cause as wholeheartedly as expected?
And what of the relationship between the police and the government? The CM himself, negating all eyewitness accounts, has dismissed the murder as an “accident”, even while his own police force managed to nab the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) jawan who allegedly shot Singh.
What Adityanath’s one-word description conveys is that there was no intention on the part of the mob to kill Singh, it just happened. Both Yogeshraj and the jawan, Jeetu Fauji, can take heart from this exoneration by the most powerful authority in the state. The same mob that murdered Singh set on fire the police chowki in which Circle Officer S P Sharma and two juniors had locked themselves. The three escaped through the ventilator. Also an accident?
Imagine what the murdered officer’s driver must feel at the CM’s dismissive remark. He had urged his boss to flee with him, but Singh thought he could convince the mob. When he went back to rescue Singh, the latter was lying seriously injured. But when he put the officer’s inert body into the jeep, the mob attacked them again. Some accident!
The burning of the police chowki has forced its inmates to spend the long winter nights at a bus stand. The events of the last week must permeate their thoughts. What must also haunt them is the knowledge that getting hold of the goondas who struck this grievous blow to their force is not their chief minister’s priority. They must first find out who killed the cows. What must this do to “police morale’’, the factor
that prompts governments across the country to protect policemen accused of inhuman conduct with ordinary citizens?
Uttar Pradesh’s policemen will be more than willing to obey their chief minister’s orders to put down cow slaughter firmly, just as they have implemented his “encounter criminals’’ policy with gusto. But will his refusal to acknowledge the deliberate violence against their officer, turn them against Adityanath?
Perhaps the chief minister sees in this incident a reflection of the agitations he used to lead, except that this one went too far. His party MPs have lost no time defending the mob, pointing out that the SHO put too many obstacles to Hindu celebrations, thereby ‘hurting Hindu sentiments’. But by supporting the likes of Yogeshraj, they are riding a dangerous tiger. Remember Bhindranwale?
One does not know whether the Muslims of Rajasthan, Haryana and UP have got used to the idea that in the eyes of their governments, their lives are less precious that of cows. But now the police of the politically most important state have to get used to it. As does the family of SHO Singh.