As the Yogi Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh prepares itself for the forthcoming business summit to attract investment into India’s most populated state, communal violence has broken out in Kasganj town of western Uttar Pradesh. One does not need to become an economist to find out that the essential prerequisite of any successful business is the prevalence of law and order. But then law and order has never been the priority areas for the politicians in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, one is reminded here of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that left at least 69 dead and rendered thousands homeless. It began as a minor incident of eve-teasing, but the then ruling Samajwadi Party converted it into a major event by blindly supporting the accused Muslims and leaving no stone unturned to brand the Hindu victims as the “convicts”. This resulted in a highly polarised situation, though the then ruling party thought it would ensure it Muslim votes. But as the subsequent events proved, it boomeranged badly on Akhilesh Yadav, the then Chief Minister, and his party.
Likewise, the violence in Kasganj has been expected to be used by the politicians to consolidate their respective vote banks. Our so-called liberal/secular commentators have said that Chief Minister Adityanath will do to Hindus what his predecessor Akhilesh Yadav did to Muslims. Fortunately, this has not happened. The violence has been contained. Yogi Adityanath has allowed the law to take its own course and district officials have been brought to the task and ordered to take action against the culprits, irrespective of their caste and religion. The new state police chief OP Singh has not hesitated to give marching orders to the district superintendent of police because of his failure to take any preventive action.
Of course, Yogi’s critics will not be impressed. They are yet to reconcile with the selection of Yogi, a sitting member of Lok Sabha from Gorakhpur, by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the party got a massive mandate in the Assembly elections last March; it had won 325 out of 403 Assembly seats. They continue to perceive Yogi as a leading propagator of the so-called aggressive Hindutva. Being a chief minister in India’s largest state, where Muslims constitute 20 per cent, of the population, he is being seen as a partner of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in polarising the polity to ensure a Hindu vote-bank in the country.
But Yogi as well as the BJP continues to emphasise that they believe in the concept of development-oriented good administration aimed at “welfare of all and appeasement of none”. It may be noted that despite sending the largest number of the representatives to the Indian Parliament, Uttar Pradesh remains poor, underdeveloped, corrupt, caste-ridden, communally sensitive and least effective in maintaining law and order. Therefore, Yogi, as Chief Minister, is emphasising how he has started initiatives to take Uttar Pradesh forward on the path of development. One is particularly impressed by his government’s decision to declare the development authorities open for financial scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) after much resistance. Let us remember that Uttar Pradesh is notorious with its stinking corrupt officials; they are still a formidable force, determined to foil Yogi’s transparency-campaign. See the periodic news of fire breaking out in the official establishments, resulting in the burning of official files and papers against corruption! Yogi must have to find a way out so that there is not only a check on wheelers and dealers but also transparency in the functioning of the development authorities.
However, for Yogi’s critics nothing matters except the standard barometer of communalism. They are emphatic that Yogi is imposing “Hindu fascism” in the state.
Two decisions of the Yogi government have attracted maximum headlines, offering enough ammunition to his foes. These are setting up “anti-Romeo squads” all over the state to tackle the growing menace of harassments of the women in public places and taking punitive actions against illegal slaughterhouses. Let us discuss them separately.
With regard to the anti-Romeo squads, about which the Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan told the Lok Sabha the other day that “the actions of the anti-Romeo squads under the new government in Uttar Pradesh were an attack on freedom and the Constitution”. Little did the honorable MP realize that the anti-Romeo campaigns were also the measures that the previous government of Samajwadi Party, her party’s newfound ally in Uttar Pradesh, had also undertaken.
In fact, while doing a research for this essay, I came across a news report carried by The Times of India (Sept. 17, 2016), which said Kasganj police was launching in Agra “Operation Romeo.” Police deployed their men at various points to apprehend miscreants found harassing or passing lewd comments on women. Speaking to the paper, senior superintendent of police for Kasganj, Sunil Kumar Singh, said, “Considering the few latest crime cases against women, we have decided to make women safety a priority in our policing. The idea is to generate public cooperation to tackle women harassment.”
In fact, the idea of anti-Romeo Squads is “old wine in a new bottle,” to borrow a report in First Post, a leading digital paper. Even under the Mayawati government, a drive was launched in Noida and a few other places in 2011, where police officials in plain clothes moved around the city to keep a watch on men misbehaving against women. Some observers also cite instances as far back as 1986 or 1987 when the police in Allahabad launched a similar drive.
Obviously, these measures were area-specific in the past. Now, what the Yogi government has done is that for the first time, a top-to-bottom policing system has been set up across the state to control crimes against women.
This system includes the feature whereby each police station shall form a squad by taking women cops along with their male counterparts, both in plainclothes and in uniform, to keep a close watch in specific areas like girls’ schools and colleges, market places, malls, cinema halls and gatherings, where women gather and to nab men involved in stalking or harassment of women. The squads are not meant to, contrary to what is being alleged by the motivated critics, be “moral-policing of the lovers”.
If there is any state in India where measures to prevent crimes against the women deserve top priority, then it has to be Uttar Pradesh. The National Crime Records Bureau’s “2015 – Crime in India” report shows Uttar Pradesh with the highest levels of crimes against women, accounting for 10.9 per cent of the national total. The state registered 35,527 in 2015, 3,025 of which were rape cases. Even, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has claimed that Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of criminal cases against women; the Commission receives on average 60 per cent of the complaints from the state alone — with at least 50 complaints every month.
Worse than that, if one goes by the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, between 2010 and 2015 the state government’s record in curbing crime against women was dismal — so much so that nearly 60 per cent of rape survivors in Uttar Pradesh since 2010 had been minors!
The districts with highest number of rape cases in 2010-15 were Aligarh (392), Moradabad (377), Allahabad (348), Meerut (346), Agra and Lucknow (328 each). In fact, as the Akhilesh government had admitted on the floor of the Assembly, in between May and September in 2016, as many as 1,012 rape cases were registered in the state. It may be noted in this context the beastly gang-rape of a woman and her daughter by highway robbers near Bulandshahar in 2016 , about which the then senior minister Azam Khan had given a heinous remark, proving thereby the utter helplessness of the then-Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
It is against this backdrop that the Yogi Adityanath government has done a commendable job in fighting the criminals by breaking their nexus with the officials and politicians. Available data suggests that in between March 2017 and January 9 this year, the number of gangsters and rewarded criminals killed touched 30 in nearly 940 encounters and about 3,900 have been arrested. “CM Yogi Adityanath had a clear message to us – do not favour, fear or work under any duress while dealing with crime and criminals and come what may, we must restore the confidence of public in state government and police,” says Anand Kumar, UP Additional Director-General of Law and Order.
Now, let us come to the issue of illegal slaughterhouses. Their banning was ordered by none other than National Green Tribunal, given the gravity of the environmental pollutions caused by unclean manners of killing the animals. It has nothing to do with the Muslims, who own most of these illegal slaughter houses. They always can carry on their business legally, after confirming to the proper and scientific procedures of killing the animals and the subsequent cleaning operations. But the Akhilesh Yadav-led government at the time lent a deaf ear to the NGT order.
Instead, it gave a horrible argument that taking actions against illegal and polluting industries would deprive people of their jobs. To compound the problem, municipal corporations, which came under Azam Khan, the Samajwadi Party’s prominent Muslim face and the urban development minister of Akhilesh, deliberately delayed the modernization of government slaughterhouses across the state to keep the butcher community’s vote captive. Thus, illegal slaughter was allowed to take place under the watch of the government so as to ensure the Muslim votes for the Samajwadi Party during elections.
In reversing the above trend Yogi does not become anti-Muslim. In fact, contrary to what the so-called secular intellectuals and analysts will like us to believe, Yogi, whose real power-base is his influential “Gorakhnath Mutt” (monastery) in Gorakhpur and the adjoining areas in eastern Uttar Pradesh, is extremely popular among the local Muslims. Most of the workers, including the chief land-record officer, in the Mutt are Muslims. Yogi has a proven record of redressing the grievances of the Muslims in the region. He has helped in many cases the recovery of farm lands and mosque lands from the encroachers.
To sum up, stereotyping Yogi as anti-Muslim and then evaluating his government through the prism of dubious secularism by the critics is nothing but hiding the truth. In the process, the critics lose credibility and the likes of Yogi gain popularity.
By Prakash Nanda