With cops being killed at Bulandshahr, vigilantism cannot be allowed to run amok or deployed as a political ploy
The brutal killing of policemen by a mob of cow vigilantes in Bulandshahr, which ran amok enraged by the sight of carcasses in the fields, shows that nothing has changed in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh when it comes to frenzied attacks based on religious polarisation. First, it shows a complete disrespect for and erosion of the law and order machinery. Second, it shows that no lessons have been learnt from the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, who was killed in Dadri over falsified charges of refrigerated beef at his home. Regardless, the needle of suspicion continues to be always pointed at a pre-determined threat based on religious insecurities and identity politics. Ironically, the policeman investigating that case and who had found some inconvenient truths was killed here for doing his job, trying to separate fact from fiction. Earlier, he was transferred, this time he had to pay with his life. Third, rumour-mongering, be it social media or plain hearsay, continues to be a volatile tool in the hands of the fringe elements to justify their relevance, propaganda and foment chaos. Finally, it gives credence to the theory that for all conciliatory talk, there’s no ridding the common polity of a planted Islamophobia. There are many questions about how the allegedly slaughtered cows were dressed up at the site all too conveniently and how the provocative incident happened on the last day of a three-day congregation of Muslims. The intent of majoritarian muscle-flexing was all too clear.
These are indeed serious concerns that have stemmed from the overuse of votebank politics by every party concerned over time. But to use retrograde ideologies for dominance has been disastrous particularly over the last few years. Yogi Adityanath may be campaigning for his party in poll-bound states as the new doer leader but there’s nothing new or path-breaking that he has to show for himself as Chief Minister of a state considered the political crucible of India. True the BJP may want to play up its Hindutva agenda in the run-up to the general elections in 2019 to appeal to its core constituency, now that the Supreme Court has even pushed back a ruling on Ayodhya, but letting the fringe loose can certainly do more harm than good. Because not many will be sold on the idea of polarisation given that this time a serving policeman was murdered on duty. Yes, faith has its followers and logic but as the local body polls in Sabarimala prove, the BJP failed to reap any political dividend despite its shrill campaign on not allowing women of all ages into the shrine. It got only two of the 39 seats in its kitty, the Left literally romping home. Time has come for all States to address the issue of reining in vigilantism and organised mob fury and curb election time thuggery and bogeyism. In September, the Supreme Court took a stern view of the fact that only nine of the 29 States and two of the seven Union Territories had so far complied with its slew of directions to deal with mob violence and cow vigilantism. It had even warned that if the remaining states and UTs did not do the needful, any default would be viewed seriously and their home secretaries would have to appear before it. Still this is not being taken seriously. If there is no example set of a corrective action being taken in a case such as the one in Bulandshahr, then the nation runs the risk of legitimising mobocracy. For if not anything, the victim this time is the institution of law and justice. And that is a dangerous precedent to set.