'Yogiji has neither been successful in reducing crime in the state nor has he been able to make the people feel that they are safe,' says one UP minister.
Aditi Phadnis reports.
When Yogi Adityanath became chief minister after the Bharatiya Janata Party's spectacular performance in Uttar Pradesh, rather than infrastructure development or invitation to investors to set up shop in the state, his first announcement was a loan waiver for farmers; and his intention to put law and order back on the rails.
He may have achieved his first objective. But his own ministers say the record of the government on the law and order front is disgraceful.
The recent killing of Apple executive Vivek Tiwari in Lucknow by two police constables is a case in point.
The story is gruesome enough to turn anyone's stomach. The constables shot Tiwari when they allegedly ordered his car to stop and he did not. (It was 3 am. We still don't know exactly what went down.)
It happened in the upscale Gomti Nagar residential suburb of UP, not somewhere in the boondocks.
Granted that Minister for Backward Class Welfare and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Om Prakash Rajbhar is only an alliance partner (he represents the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party). But his statement that the government is protecting a police force that routinely extorts money from citizens, and that law and order is a joke in UP, needs to be given some consideration.
'Yogiji has neither been successful in reducing crime in the state nor has he been able to make the people feel that they are safe,' Rajbhar said.
The chief minister ordered the dismissal of the constables but astonishingly because 'this was not an encounter' -- as if it is okay to kill people in encounters while they are walking the streets and going about their business.
This is not the first instance. In one case in September, the police invited media houses to witness a 'live' encounter in which two youths, Mustaqeem and Naushad, were shot dead by the police at Harduaganj in Aligarh.
The BJP brags that 'criminals' are coming to police stations in droves to confess and accept punishment rather than be killed in encounters.
Whatever happened to rule of law, chain of evidence, trials, appeals and all the other pesky paraphernalia because of which India is known as a genuinely democratic, law-abiding country?
As analysts have pointed out, Adityanath -- for want of imagination or worse -- has pretty much adopted the same tactics used by his predecessors to discipline UP. The criminal-governance nexus in UP is probably the worst among all Indian states.
This is a historical problem. So when chief ministers have tried to break this by empowering the police, the force has interpreted this as a virtual carte blanche to aim, shoot and kill.
In 1982, V P Singh resigned when his attempts to 'discipline' dacoits led to the murder of his brother.
Civil society had to hang its head in shame when UP's Provincial Armed Constabulary entered Muslim areas in Hashimpura, Meerut and Maliana, took Muslim youth in custody (on the grounds that they found scissors and knives in their homes -- which was the ancestral trade of the families in those localities), took them to the Ganga canal, shot them point blank and flung their bodies in the canal.
This is not all. In the past, the state police has intervened to take out leaders of gangs at the instance of rivals (who have been politicians in some cases) and has opted not to take action against certain gangs, again at the instance of politicians.
How can anyone condone this?
Why must UP swing from one end of the pendulum to another -- from complete somnolence of the police to the law enforcing body itself becoming a killing machine?
Here's the thing: Ordinary people who are watching all this will react if the political leadership intervenes only to the advantage of some people and not others.
In June, the BJP lost the Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur assembly elections as the Opposition got together and pledged that among other things, it would review the immunity the police seemed to enjoy. The BJP also suffered reverses in Gorakhpur and Phulpur earlier.
Yogi Adityanath should heed the counsel of his ministers.
It is one thing to be a decisive chief minister. But it is also important to be a balanced and a wise chief minister.