It is now the law-enforcers who are contributing to Uttar Pradesh’s terrible reputation on law and order, with the burning to death of a journalist, Jagendra Singh, allegedly by policemen and at the behest of a minister about whom Singh had posted corruption allegations on Facebook. The police are, of course, holding out by saying that Singh set himself on fire to escape arrest in a murder case. In that case the police should have given some details of the case he was supposedly involved in. Also, if this were the situation, it is inexplicable why the minister, Ram Murti Verma, is absconding. This incident seems to have put the state government in a spot, with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav unable to make up his mind as to whether he should keep the alleged offender in his ministry.
It is hardly a surprise that such an incident should happen in UP. In June and July 2011 there had been at least two cases of rape by policemen on the premises of police stations. The situation in UP had deteriorated to such an extent that the Bahujan Samaj Party was voted out of power the next year. Now that Mr Yadav has completed more than half his term as CM he simply cannot be complacent about this. This also shows how vulnerable journalists and RTI activists are when faced with our society’s retrograde elements. On Sunday, a journalist was beaten, tied to a motorcycle and dragged for about 100 metres in Pilibhit, UP. In September 2013, Rajesh Verma, a freelancer, was killed in clashes during the disturbances in Muzaffarnagar. In October 2012, Manoj Pandey, a journalist working with a local Hindi daily, was shot in Sultanpur. If one looks across the country, there are many other cases also. But the truly remarkable thing about the present case is that a minister, along with some policemen, is involved. Seeing these, one may recall that more than 50 years ago Justice AN Mulla of the Allahabad High Court had described the police as “the most organised criminal force in the country”.
Behind every offender there is a group of supporters, and more so if the culprit is a politician. But the ball is now squarely in Mr Yadav’s court. He should suspend the minister without waiting for the investigation to be over and, if necessary, ask the CBI to probe the murder.