Threat to democracy
Uttar Pradesh police, never really respected for its impartiality and commitment to justice, seems to have sunk to unfathomable levels. The encounters across the state have made headlines in the independent media with investigative stories of how the police, under political instructions, has bolstered Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s encounter raj.
Two reports carried in The Citizen Thursday reflect this, with Adityanath’s police killing two alleged criminals in an encounter that the local media had prior information about and was present at the spot to photograph the incident. The Opposition has demanded a high level probe into what it has described as a ‘sinister conspiracy’.
And the second report where the UP police has encouraged, or supported, attacks on Christians by mobs and right wing organisations without intervening to protect the victims. Law and order has thus become the casualty under a regime that tends to look at the police force as an extension of its street armies, seemingly trained to target, assault, rape and kill.
The third incident is perhaps the worst, where the role of the police is reprehensible. Two videos highlight a sad incident where two medical students were set upon by members of the Bajrang Dal/Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Meerut. The reason: they happened to be from two different communities. The girl — whose family, and in particular her mother — has stood by her through the trauma, was collecting notes with her male colleague who happened to be a Muslim. One of the videos shows the boy being attacked and beaten. He is now in hiding, terrified for his life. He is injured both physically and mentally. Instead of protecting the victims, the video shows a policeman stands by while the boy is beaten with his only intervention being a feeble ‘bas karo’ at some point in the assault.
The second video of the same incident is in a sense even more horrific. The police remove the girl from the scene, and one would have expected that this was for safety. Instead the terrified girl is roundly abused by the police man sitting in the front seat, next to the driver, while a woman constable seated at the back with her, beats her continuously. Why? Because, as the cop says, why did she as a Hindu meet a Muslim youth? The language used is crass and abusive.
The incident took place on Sunday, when the woman and her Muslim friend, both medical students in their 20s, were targeted by a group of men, allegedly from the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The men barged into the man’s home, assaulted the pair and handed them over to the police. The attackers accused the two of “love jihad”, a term used by right wing groups to describe a relationship between a Hindu woman and a Muslim man.
The 50-second video being circulated on social media shows the Muslim man in a blue shirt, standing outside his home, surrounded by men from right wing groups, with a cop standing next to him. The man’s face looks injured, and he can be heard trying to reason with the men who abused and heckled him.
“Padhai kar rahe ho ki love jihad kar rahe ho (Are you studying or doing love jihad?), says one of them, while another is heard saying, “ek ek ko chun ke maarenge hum (Will pick each one out and beat them). Suddenly, three men started assaulting the Muslim man and all the cop can be heard saying is “arre bas (enough now)”
Soon after, more policemen arrived on the spot, bundled the man and woman into two different vehicles, and took them to the local police station. On the way to the police station, the student was thrashed by a woman constable while another asked her, why choose a Muslim man over a Hindu?
The woman told the media that they were attacked when they were studying at her friend’s home. “We were sitting and studying when members of Bajrang Dal came, locked me up in a room and beat him. They asked me for an ID card and taunted us saying ‘how will you get married? He’s Muslim, you’re Hindu’. We said there’s nothing like that. Police reached later and put us in separate vehicles. They misbehaved with me. In the police station, a woman asked me to file a rape complaint against him. My family and I refused,” said the woman.
The UP police chief Om Prakash Singh, in a tweet said, “The Meerut incident is an act of gross imprudence by a few errant cops. Irresponsible and insensitive behaviour by UP cops would not be tolerated. The job of a policeman is to maintain highest standards of probity, which must be upheld at all times. Corrective action is being taken.”
The cops seen in the videos have been suspended now, after the videos went viral, but the fact remains that they are following directions. This has been evident from the behaviour of the police in the numerous incidents that have been reported from UP — from lynchings to encounters to arrests, to just plain detentions.
Adityanath, motivated by immediate concerns of divisiveness and communalisation, has not—and probably will not — realise that this politicisation and communalisation of the police force is in effect leaving his government and UP bereft of a law and order machinery. And a police force that is encouraged to lose its moorings in the Constitution and the law will become rogue, with a highly adverse impact on the democratic structure of the country.
At the best of times, the UP police has taken positions that have led to enquiries and reports __ recommendations of which have never been implemented by successive governments. The curent regime, however, has crossed all limits in allowing what is base and questionable free play. The Dalits and minorities might be at the receiving end today, but the stick never stops really where the politicians desire it to. And in the not so long run, the police force of UP will damage the already weakening law and order structure of the largest state of India, beyond all repair.