October 11, 2020

UP: Descent into Barbarism

THE death of a 19-year old  dalit girl due to brutal gang-rape and torture in Hathras and the way the Uttar Pradesh police and administration have handled it,  is a horrifying yet instructive tutorial on the nature of the Adityanath regime in UP.

The family of the girl faced indifference and hostility in filing an FIR. The medical treatment was delayed, after being in a hospital in Aligarh, she finally died in a government hospital in Delhi 15 days after the assault.  Her body was taken back to the village by the police and despite pleas of the family, the body was not taken to her house nor her family allowed to conduct her last rites. The body was cremated by the police with the family confined to their house.

Having delayed the medical test for rape and ensuring all evidence was lost, the IG of police, Aligarh, announced that initial medical reports show no rape was committed.  The village was barricaded for 48 hours and no one was allowed to meet her family – no political leaders, lawyers or the media.  The district magistrate himself met the family and issued veiled threats on the statements they made about the case.

Subsequently, after widespread protests, access to the family was allowed. Chief Minister Adityanath declared that there are “anarchists” out to create trouble and “conspiracies” to malign the government and incite communal and caste clashes.  The UP police embarked on an FIR filing spree against the opposition leaders, activists and websites accusing them of whipping up caste tensions and seditious activities.  Any protest or criticism of the government’s handling of the atrocity is being labeled as “conspiracy” to create caste and communal conflicts. A journalist from Kerala based in Delhi was arrested on his way to Hathras under the UAPA on charges of terror funding.

What emerges from this whole episode is of a state where there is an authoritarian police raj that enforces a toxic mix of Hindutva communalism and upper caste chauvinism.  The person of the chief minister himself embodies this deadly cocktail. 

The rise of Adityanath to the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh is by itself a sinister story.  Here is a man who took over as the head of the Gorakhnath Math in Gorakhpur and became a BJP MP from there in 1998.  His reign as the head of the math was marked by terror and violence. He set-up a Hindu Yuva Sena in 2002 and personally led these armed men in attacks on Muslims, desecrating graveyards and generally committing mayhem – all in the name of cow protection, stopping `love jihad’ and organising `ghar vapasi’. Over the years, thousands of criminal cases were filed against him involving murder, defiling of religious places, rioting with deadly weapons and criminal intimidation. It is such a fascistic bigot who was chosen by Modi and Amit Shah to become the chief minister after the 2017 assembly election, even though he had not contested the election. 

Soon after becoming the chief minister, Adityanath got all the cases against him withdrawn. Now, “crime-free” himself, he declared war on crime by announcing “jo apradh karenge, tho thok diye jayenge’ (whoever commits crime, they will be knocked off). 

This was the signal to the police to launch “encounters” against suspected criminals. From 2017, uptill August 2020, 125 persons were shot down by the police in 6,476 encounters.  A few thousand more were injured. Of those killed, 45 ie, 37 per cent were Muslims.  The total impunity with which such extra-judicial killings took place was seen recently when Vikas Dubey, an accused gangster, was shot dead while being transported in police custody from Indore to Kanpur.

The caste bias of the Adityanath regime stood out when a thakur BJP MLA, Kuldeep Singh Sengar, was sought to be protected in 2017 after he raped a 17-year old girl. The father of the victim died of injuries sustained from beatings by Sengar’s men.  It was only after the High Court intervened a year later that Sengar was arrested and the case handed over to the CBI resulting in his conviction. The CBI investigation found three police officials and an IAS officer guilty of trying  to shield the rapist, but the government took no action against them.

The administration and police have been communalised with instructions sent to police stations to observe religious festivals. The government withdrew 38 cases involving over a hundred persons who had been accused in the Muzaffarnagar communal violence of 2013. They included BJP MLAs and MPs.

The Adityanath regime does not tolerate any protest, or, dissent and the police is used brazenly to suppress the opposition. The anti-CAA protests were dealt with brutally, at least twenty people died in police firing; Muslim shops and  homes were targeted by the police and collective fines imposed. The distinction between the police and the enforcers of the Hindutva regime has been blurred. 

The Hathras atrocity reveals the impunity with which the police and administration operate to protect the caste and communal vested interests.  There is no succour for the poor and oppressed in this pitiless regime.

Uttar Pradesh’s descent into barbarism is a chilling warning to the rest of India of what to expect if Hindu Rashtra ever comes into being.

(October 7, 2020)