You may never know. The mob lynching of a duty-bound cop in Bulandshahr reflects the dark realities of a lawless land
While campaigning in Vijaynagar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath aka Ajay Singh Bisht threatened of another surgical strike against terrorists in Pakistan. “If Masood Azhar (leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed) threatens us over Ram temple, then in a second surgical strike, terrorists like him will be eliminated, even his masters will not be able to save him,” he said on December 3. Ironically, a day after, Subodh Kumar Singh, a police inspector in charge of Siyana, a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr, was allegedly killed by a cow vigilante mob in the neighbouring village Chigravati. While Yogi is busy campaigning in election states, his government, evidently, failed to provide security even to its own police officials.
Police officials in Uttar Pradesh were targeted earlier as well. In 2011, a police superintendent was nearly beaten to death in Moradabad. In 2016, an additional police superintendent was killed in Mathura. But over the past four years, there has been a rapid rise in violence across northern India and, particularly in UP, in the name of the cow. Inspector Singh is its latest victim of the so-called cow vigilantism. Incidentally, he was the main investigating officer in the case of lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, lying some 40 km from Bulandhshahr. Akhlaq, 52, was killed by a mob in September 2015 who accused him of slaughtering a cow. There are eerie similarities between the murders of Akhlaq and the police inspector who probed his case.
The Bulandshahr crisis broke after Chigrawati villagers found carcasses of cows in the fields. Videos, which were shared widely on WhatsApp and social networks, showed a tractor with several carcasses blocking the road leading to the local police station. As many as 300 people gathered to protest the alleged cow slaughter, asking the police to take action against those involved. Six police officers were inside the station. Inspector Singh reached the station just after the protests began. The cops later tried to calm the protesters, but failed. According to the police officers, some of the protesters were carrying country-made revolvers. The mob set fire to the police station and several vehicles parked nearby.
Ram Asrey, the driver of Inspector Singh’s SUV, said in an interview that the inspector had been hit by a brick and was lying unconscious. He put him in the car, got into the driver’s seat and started driving away from the mob, which had blocked the road, and towards fields, according to a BBC report. When the mob surrounded the vehicle, Asrey fled. Later, Inspector Singh was declared dead when he was brought to a hospital. So far the police have arrested five people in connection with the murder. However, the main accused, Yogesh Raj, the Bajrang Dal’s district coordinator in Bulandshahr, is on the run.
Reports of such murders that keep appearing on the media prompt an important question: Why such incidents keep happening in, mainly, the north of the country? In the case of Uttar Pradesh, which witnessed the most number of violence in the name of the cow over the last five years, there exists the problem of a dysfunctional criminal justice system. As Abhinav Kumar, an IPS office, wrote in The Indian Express, the fundamental link between crime and punishment, that is the foundation of the rule of law, has been broken in UP for a long while now. Trials take decades. Conviction rates are abysmal. Witnesses routinely turn hostile with no adverse consequences. Forensic facilities are negligible. Prisons are overcrowded and more often than not, they serve as safe havens for well-connected gangsters to run their empires from, according to Kumar. What makes it worse is the emboldening of the cow vigilantes by the policies of the BJP governments, which encourage them in covert and overt ways.
It is a fact that there has been a marked rise in the number of cow-related attacks in India ever since the Modi government took office in 2014. In fact, since 2012, there were 97 cow-related violent incidents in India that targeted 314 people, according to data compiled by data journalism portal Indiaspend. Of this, 39 people were killed and 165 were seriously injured. Among the victims, 54% were muslims, 11% were dalits, 2% were adivasis. And a majority of the states where these incidents happened were ruled by the BJP. If in 2014, three violent incidents targeted 11 people, of which seven were muslims, the number jumped to 12 incidents with 48 victims and 10 deaths in 2015. In the year that followed, the number of incidents would further rise to 24 and victims to 58. Eight people were killed in cow violence. Year 2017 saw a massive jump in such violence. There were 37 incidents recorded in the country that targeted 157 people. Of this, 11 were killed. About 61% of the victims were muslims.
It’s not a coincidence that the main accused in Inspector Singh’s murder was a Bajrang Dal leader. And the Dal is part of the Sangh Parivar family whose political arm, the BJP, is in power in both UP and at the centre. Will the government act against cow vigilantes? On December 5, a day after Singh was killed, UP government held a security review in which state Chief Secretary Anup Pandey told Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of the state’s all 75 districts that Chief Minister Adityanath had ordered strict action against cow slaughter, unlawful trade in cattle and illegal slaughterhouses. That shows where the Yogi government’s priority lies. The death of an inspector on duty, it seems, is not potent enough to change that.