Yogi Adityanath’s unworthy critics
Two issues have been in headlines over the last one week after the BJP-led government assumed office in Uttar Pradesh. And both the issues became newsworthy soon after the new Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath decided, as per the BJP’s manifesto for the just concluded elections to the state Assembly, to set up anti-Romeo squads all over the states to tackle the growing menace of harassments of the women in public places and take punitive actions against the illegal slaughter houses. Predictably, the so-called liberal and secular critics, including politicians, intellectuals and activists, have become hyperactive in demonising the chief minister and asserting that India under the likes of Modi and Yogi is on the cou rse of being imposed “Hindu fascism.”
However, there are absolutely no, repeat “no”, merits in these assertions. On the other hand, these are the voices of sheer frustration of these so-called liberals and liberals because of the unprecedented victory of the BJP in India’s largest and politically most significant state and their utter rejections by the electorate. Take the case of the anti-Romeo squads, about which the Congress M P 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 honourable MP realise 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 column I came across a news report carried by the Times of India, dated September 17, 2016, that said Kasganj police launching in Agra “Operation Romeo”, a drive to curb eve-teasing in the district. Police deployed their men on various points to apprehend the 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 with women. Some observers also cite instances as far back as 1986 or 1987 when the police in Allahabad launched a drive against eve-teasers. 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 as well as in uniform, its jobs being to keep a close watch in specific areas like girls’ schools and colleges, market places, malls, cinema halls and gatherings where the presence of girls will be larger in number; and to nab those found involved in teasing, stalking or harassment of women. The squads are not meant to, contrary to what is being alleged by the motivated critics, be “moral-policing the lovers”.
If there is any state in India where measures to prevent crimes against the women, including harassments in public places deserve top priority, then it has to be Uttar Pradesh. Because, 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 percent of the national total. The state registered 35,527 crimes against women 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 an average 60 per cent of the complaints from the state alone (with at least 50 complaints every month). And what is worse, if one goes by the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (that was tabled in UP Assembly last year), in between 2010-15 the state government’s record in curbing crime against women was dismal; so much so that nearly 60 per cent of the rape survivors in Uttar Pradesh since 2010 were 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 in the floor of the Assembly, in between May and September last year, 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 Bulandshahr last year, 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.
Now, let us come to the issue of illegal slaughter houses. 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, which 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 government 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 that came under Azam Khan, the party’s prominent Muslim face and the urban development minister in the Akhilesh Yadav-led government, deliberately delayed the modernisation 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.
As can be seen above, protests over the anti-Romeo squads and illegal slaughter houses are devoid of merits. In what is nothing but a measure of extreme intolerance, the so-called liberals and secularists have raised these issues just because a saffron-clad Yogi has become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. And here, they cite a recent editorial comment of the New York Times (NYT) in support of their contention. But then as I have written elsewhere, NYT has been repeatedly showing India in poor light over the last few years; so much so that it has lost its credibility.
In fact, going by the editorial comments and op-ed features that appear in the NYT these days, it will not be wrong to say that the paper seems be suffering from Indo-phobia. Many discerning observers feel so. Prof. Sumit Ganguly, one of the leading Indian-American intellectuals (a professor of political science at Indiana University) wondered in an article that he wrote in 2009 in the famous magazine Forbes as to why the New York Times editorial board had a “hectoring” and “patronizing” tone towards India, be it on its coverage on Kashmir or Indo-US nuclear deal or Indian economy.
In 2010, the Huffington Post charged that the NYT is Indophobic and promotes neocolonialism with its slanted and negative coverage. Vamsee Juluri, author and Professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco, has identified “Indophobia” in certain sections of the US media, particularly in the NYT, as part of a racist postcolonial/neocolonial discourse used to attack and defame India and encourage racial prejudice against Indian Americans, particularly in light of India’s recent economic progress, which some “old-school” colonialists find to be incompatible with their Clash of Civilizations world view.
United States lawmaker Kumar P. Barve, a legislator of Maryland (he is the first Indian-American to be elected as a state legislator in United States history) once described a NYT editorial as full of “blatant and unprofessional factual errors or omissions,” having a “haughty, condescending, arrogant and patronizing” tone. It may be added here that when in September 2014, the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully placed a spacecraft into orbit around the planet Mars, thereby completing the Mars Orbiter Mission and earning plaudits from all over the world, the NYT published a cartoon, showing a turban-wearing man with a cow knocking at the door of an “elite space club”. Predictably, the cartoon “drew immediate criticism for being racist in content” all over America, compelling the NYT to publish an apology saying that a “large number of readers have complained” about the cartoon and that they “apologize to readers who were offended”.
More than China, it is the NYT which opposes India’s entry into the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG). It said that India’s membership was “not merited” as it had “fallen far short” in assuming responsibilities of a nuclear nation. This view was criticized by several western experts such as Prof. Ramesh Thakur (Director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the Australian National University) and Dr. Alyssa Ayres (senior fellow for South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations). Prof. Thakur found the NYT to be “frequently chauvinistic”, reflecting “a deliberate bias”, whereas Ayres advised the paper to “ground its arguments in an appraisal of the complete facts”.
What all this means is that by citing the comment on Yogi Adityanath by the NYT, a paper, which, incidentally, is rapidly losing its credibility and circulations even in its home country, the United States, the so-called liberals and secularists in India are not helping their cause.
By Prakash Nanda