Prevention and retaliation are the inevitable stages covered by the police in controlling any major agitation. However, some of the methods used by the Yogi Adityanath government in mafia-dominated UP have been judged to be way beyond legal limits. The Supreme Court ordered recently that the recoveries made on the basis of illegal show-cause notices in cases related to the anti-CAA protests would have to be refunded. Justice Chandrachud said, “All deterrence under the provisions of law has to be provided under the four corners of law. There cannot be any provision for deterrence outside the fold of law.” Earlier, the apex court had warned the UP government, acting like a “complainant, adjudicator and prosecutor” by itself, to withdraw those notices.
Will it prove to be too much of a political tightrope walk for UP’s law enforcers or a straightforward legal doctrine of common sense to follow? A lot will depend on the outcome of the ongoing elections. On February 10, the day of the first phase of polling in UP, Yogi had urged people to re-elect the BJP government for the sake of law and order. Else, he warned, the gains achieved on this front during his five-year rule would be lost. Yogi cited Kashmir, Bengal and Kerala as examples of ‘disorderly’ societies. Obviously, in his estimation, what made the BJP’s anti-Muslim support base formidable, and not just in UP, was a blend of selectively oppressive order developed in UP. Clearly lacking legitimacy, Yogi’s argument still finds an echo in the BJP’s election meetings, even as its main rival Samajwadi Party’s own share of law and order negatives has not deterred Akhilesh Yadav from forging alliances and making conciliatory announcements. The disgruntled farmer, the Covid-hit migrant and the unemployed youth seem to have concluded that their voices were muffled during Yogi’s rule as they were pitted against the law and order machinery.
In UP, for a long time, the crime mafia has kept pace with politics. It reflects a disturbing polarisation when transplanted to the maintenance of law and order at the grassroots level. The suppression of anti-CAA protests of December 2019-March 2020 was comparable to the Muzaffarnagar communal incidents of August-September 2013 in terms of the hate campaign that was unleashed. Understandably, the main contestants in the UP elections sound combative while showcasing their respective brand of law and order, projecting a crime-free utopia. But not to be missed, each is armed with an entirely subjective rhetoric. The crux is that a polarised political brand would need a particular social order to survive and accordingly, the law must submit to the respective regime. From the majoritarian order of Yogi to a preferential order of Akhilesh, they offer an exclusive legal ecosystem as a pre-requisite to fulfilling the promises of development, opportunities and self-respect for their community of voters.
Such an enormous mainstreaming of law and order should have been indicative of inclusion and integration of constitutional values into day-to-day policing. However, the ruling party is continuously harping on the divisive aspects of law and order because such a ploy pays off electorally, even as the affected sections of the population are deeply apprehensive of the impact of adverse policing. On the one hand, the voter needs reassurance on issues such as mafia dominance, women’s security and minority rights, but on the other, the fault lines of the political response are so exposed that ‘Jai Shri Ram’, a religious expression crafted into a political slogan, has been successfully adopted by street bullies.
A tragic ‘love jihad’ episode from Yogi’s constituency Gorakhpur, which goes to the polls on March 3, will illustrate the state of affairs. On January 21, a young Muslim cycle mechanic, Dilshad Hussain, facing a rape charge and in police custody, was shot dead at the district court, Gorakhpur, by the father of the Hindu ‘victim’. Hailed initially as an instance of quick justice in right-wing circles, this news of breakdown of law and order in the Chief Minister’s constituency died down fast amidst the din of electioneering revolving around the very issue of law and order. In a 2020 video clip, Dilshad, having embraced Hinduism by then, is seen solemnising marriage with the same girl, his neighbour in Gorakhpur, at an Arya Samaj temple in Hyderabad. It revealed that the girl was a major and the two were lovers since 2018 against the wishes of her family. The hounding of the inter-faith couple led to the brutal honour killing.
The Gujarat model found a mention in the speeches of the Prime Minister recently when in the middle of electioneering, a sessions court sentenced 38 persons to death in the Ahmedabad bomb blast cases of 2008. PM Modi claimed that as Gujarat’s Chief Minister, he had vowed befitting punishment to the guilty, while assuring a similar outcome in UP. True, the visible crimes, which are reflected in statistics and discourses, navigate the electoral arena as well, but the current UP elections are significantly putting law and order narrative to the test.
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