The brutal gangrape in Bulandshahr throws up memories of how Uttar Pradesh’s police force has been misused and politicised. It may neither be wrong nor exaggerated to say that the police has become the politician’s hand maiden that has been used even to chase bees and buffaloes. If facts are allowed to speak, as they should be, there is evidence to prove that the state’s top most politicians have actually used cops to hunt down buffaloes and inquire into how bees flew past a chief minister’s face when she was addressing a rally in Lucknow.
The cops showed amazing alacrity after then chief minister Mayawati ordered an inquiry in to establish if the bees had swarmed past her because a hive had been disturbed by her ‘political opponents’. A posse of policemen spent days looking for hives and even sought advice from experts who study bee behavior. That was in 2010.
In 2016, Azam Khan, the number two in Akhilesh Yadav’s cabinet, has taken the same route. Instead of empathising with the family of the Bulanadshahr horror and expressing shock over how a mother and her minor daughter were raped in a field barely 100 metres off a UP highway, Khan actually said, “To get power, politicians can get down to any level, they can murder people, trigger riots, kill innocent people, so the truth has to be found out.” He suggested that the government--his government--needs to keep a watch on its political opponents because “people can stoop to any level” in politics.
The same Khan used the police--as if the men in uniform were personal slaves--to look for buffaloes that went missing from his farmhouse. For days, cops went on a massive buffalo hunt, combing fields with sniffer dogs to track down the buffaloes. The minister, according to some reports, even had CCTV footage of slaughter houses scanned.
This is the priority in a state which has abysmal crime data it should be embarrassed by. Let’s take rape statistics alone. According to the State Crime Records Bureau, the number of rape cases have jumped by over 160 percent in one year alone, up from 3,467 in 2014 to 9,075 in 2015.
The police, in fact, has become increasingly politicised in Uttar Pradesh and appears to be taking their cue from their political masters. During the Samajwadi Party’s previous tenure between 2004 and 2007, the government had recruited over 20,000 constables but the recruitment process reeked of favouritism and their appointments were cancelled by Mayawati. She even took the matter right up to the Supreme Court but the SP returned to power in 2012 and withdrew the case from the apex court.
For years, politicians have been resisting police reforms that would insulate the cops from their masters. The nexus in which both choose to cosy up to each other has led to a situation where statistics mean little. Any chief minister should have asked why UP has the dubious distinction of seeing a 160 percent rise in the number of rape cases.
Instead, as the Bulandshahr family has reported, the police asked a hundred questions of the victims before lodging a complaint. It cannot be that the men in uniform spring into action to look for bees and buffaloes and sleep through a brutal gangrape that sears into the state’s and the nation’s conscience.
(The views expressed are personal. The writer tweets as @shammybaweja)