Print edition : September 27, 2019

Vehicles being set on fire over alleged illegal slaughter of cattle in near Mahaw village in Bulandshahr district on December 3, 2018. Police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was killed when he tried to control the riot. Photo: PTI

Iqbal Ansari (second, left), one of the main litigants in the Babri Masjid-Ram janmabhoomi case, interacting with the media after the Supreme Court’s verdict on the case, in Ayodhya on September 27, 2018. Photo: PTI

Journalists protest outside the Police Commissioner’s office in Mirzapur on September 3 against the alleged harassment of journalists. The police filed a case against the journalist Pawan Kumar Jaiswal for videographing without permission students having a midday meal at a government primary school in the Rampur Udayban area in Ballia district. Photo: PTI

A series of recent incidents in Uttar Pradesh show that hate crimes are on the rise in India’s most populous State.

“IN Jammu and Kashmir, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] government is curtailing democratic rights, oppressing people and turning the State into a jackboot hell by invoking special authoritarian powers, whereas in Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath’s BJP government is terrorising ordinary citizens, creating mayhem and generally spreading lawlessness using its Hindutva goons and sections of the police, albeit without drawing any special executive or legislative powers.” This was the reaction of Akhilesh Yadav, former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party president, to the spate of horrifying incidents that happened in late August and early September in the State.

He said: “These happenings show that no section of the population is safe from the marauding Sangh Parivar-driven vandals. The net result of these developments is the permeation of a sense of fear across the length and breadth of Uttar Pradesh.” He said the incidents showed that the public outcry in July over the plight of the Unnao rape victim and the machinations of the accused BJP legislator, Kuldeep Sengar, against her family had no corrective influence on the terror machinery of the Sangh Parivar. “It is business as usual for that machinery. In fact, it is literally thriving on the communal polarisation propaganda and by spewing venom on society,” he said.

The incidents Akhilesh Yadav was referring to occurred in several parts of Uttar Pradesh—from Bulandshahar and Meerut in the western part of the State to Ayodhya-Faizabad in the central region and Balia in the eastern part. In the last week of August, all the six accused in the Bulandshahar Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh murder case were granted bail. The prime suspects, Bajrang Dal leaders Yogesh Raj and Shikhar Agarwal and Jeetu Fauji, who is apparently not formally associated with any Sangh Parivar organisation but is involved in militant actions for several Hindutva extremists, and the other accused were accorded a massive welcome by Hindutva outfits immediately after their release. The alleged killers were garlanded amid loud slogans that sought to portray them as “Hindutva warriors” who had protected Hindu interests through their actions, which of course included the killing of inspector Subodh Kumar Singh. (The police inspector was killed on December 3 last year when he tried to control a riotous mob following the alleged discovery of cattle carcasses near Mahaw village in Bulandshahr.) The reception and the provocative slogans raised on the occasion were celebrated by Hindutva groups in cyberspace.

Subodh Kumar Singh’s wife, Rajni, referred to the reception when she demanded that the higher judiciary immediately cancel the bail given to the accused. She told the media that the granting of bail and the subsequent happenings had aggravated the sense of fear that had gripped her and her family. She said that she had received threatening calls even when the accused were in jail. One such caller threatened that she and her children would be “finished off”. “Now that they [the accused] are all out, I fear for my life and that of my children. My husband died while serving his motherland, but now his killers are being garlanded on receiving bail.” Rajni Singh initiated a communication to Yogi Adityanath seeking his intervention to ensure that the accused were sent back to jail. She also demanded that the investigation should move ahead without interference.

In spite of her exhortations through the media, the Yogi Adityanath government did not make any concrete moves on her demands. Several opposition leaders were of the view that it would have been in the fitness of things if the killers of someone as important as a senior inspector of police had been booked under the National Security Act. But, obviously, this was not in the consideration of the BJP governments in the State and at the Centre. More importantly, the manner in which Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya responded to the news about the reception was indicative of the covert support that the alleged killers may be enjoying from the powers that be. Maurya was of the view that there was nothing extraordinary about the reception and that it was usual for political organisations in Uttar Pradesh to hold receptions for those who came out after a stint in jail.

A number of witnesses to the reception told Frontline, on condition of anonymity, that several police personnel escorted the parade of the alleged killers. They are, evidently, associates of the saffron brigade in the forces, said an activist of the Rashtriya Rihai Manch. The Riha Manch is committed to taking up human rights issues and has been closely following the developments in the Subodh Kumar Singh murder case. Its activists said that the manner in which the authorities chaperoned the accused instilled fear in the minds of the relatives and friends of Subodh Kumar Singh. Abhishek Pratap Singh Rathore, son of Subodh Kumar Singh and a student of law in Uttarakhand, told Frontline that he believed in the judicial process and was hopeful that there would be no interference with the investigation.

‘Fake encounter killing’

Yet another shocking development in western Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, however, has evoked widespread condemnation from students, especially those belonging to Chaudhary Charan Singh University (CCSU). The students have been agitating against the alleged “fake encounter killing” of a CCSU student, Kadir Ali. The sequence of events that led to the killing of Kadir Ali, as narrated by some students, is as follows. On August 28, a reception was organised for State Transport Minister Ashok Kataria on the CCSU campus. Kadir Ali was actively involved in the preparations as an activist of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student front of the Sangh Parivar. Apparently, Kadir Ali’s family had sustained association with the BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits. However, his status as a member of the minority Muslim community was a point of acrimonious debate among several “extremely Hindutva-oriented” Sangh Parivar activists. This had led to intermittent arguments and clashes among them.

There was a skirmish on August 28, following which Kadir Ali was taken into custody for opening fire on two students, Shanu and Manish. Seven other students were listed by the police as participants in the alleged crime. Kadir Ali’s brother Sajid, on coming to know about the incident the next day, went to the police station to have his brother released. But what he received was the news of Kadir Ali’s death in custody.

According to the police, Kadir Ali tried to flee from police custody after snatching a sub-inspector’s pistol when he was being taken for recovery of the weapon he had used to open fire on the students, and this resulted in a tussle in which Kadir Ali was injured. The police claim that they had got Kadir Ali admitted to a hospital for the treatment of his injuries, but he could not be saved since the injuries were grievous. A large number of students refuse to believe this story and assert that Kadir Ali was finished off by the police in a cold-blooded “encounter”.

They demand a high-profile investigation into the case under judicial scrutiny and that the police officers who are complicit in the crime be kept away. Sajid took up the issue forcefully through a public deposition, a video of which went viral on social media. The students’ agitation was continuing at the time of writing this report in the first week of September, but the authorities have not yet acted on their demands.

In Ayodhya-Faizabad, Iqbal Ansari, one of the main litigants in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case and a key activist of the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC), was assaulted on September 3. Ansari has lodged a police complaint alleging that two persons, including a woman, attempted to assault him at his house in Ayodhya and threatened to kill him if he did not withdraw the case being heard in the Supreme Court. Ansari said his family members and the two police gunners provided to him for security rescued him. He said the woman identified herself as Vartika Singh and the man introduced himself as Prabhu Dayal Singh. They claimed to be from Lucknow. Senior police officials in Ayodhya told the media that they were investigating the case and verifying the credentials of the alleged attackers.

A number of BMAC leaders based in Faizabad told Frontline that while the assault would have to be investigated and verified, the fact that several fringe Hindutva groups made bold to launch attacks pointed to an atmosphere of hate that had emerged under the current regime.

The incident at Ballia, too, underscores the level of persecution under the Adityanath administration.

Reports about a government primary school in the Rampur Udaybhan area in Ballia district, where caste discrimination was practised blatantly, with Dalit children being given inferior quality food in separately demarcated areas and on leaf plates, had gone viral in social media. The initial response of the authorities, including District Magistrate Bhawani Singh Khangarot, was to deny the report, but later they were forced to agree that food was being distributed separately. The school has mostly Dalit and Scheduled Tribe children with a few from Other Backward Classes communities.

An inquiry was ordered to find out what happened exactly. Khangarot said a detailed probe would be conducted under a joint magisterial-level officer and the testimonies of the children and their guardians would be recorded.

However, the administration’s first concrete action was to file a first information report (FIR) against Pawan Jaiswal, a local journalist who shot the video and passed it on to ANI. The charges against him include trespass and videography without permission. Journalists’ associations in the region, especially in Mirzapur district, where the FIR was registered, started a series of protests against the authorities.

Clearly, the authoritarian steamroller is on in Uttar Pradesh though not on the same dimensions as in Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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