There is something rotten in the state of Uttar Pradesh. As Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav tries to grapple with the enormity of the horror that was the murder of children in Nithari, his brother Shivpal Yadav almost wrote off the killings by stating that “such small incidents keep happening... the case has already been solved”. Coming from the Chief Minister’s brother, such a brash display of apathy is startling enough. But Shivpal Yadav also happens to be the UP PWD Minister and, therefore, a member of the team that Mulayam Singh leads from Lucknow. Even as the latter admitted that the Noida Police’s handling of complaints and refusal to register many of the FIRs sought by parents of the ‘missing’ children displayed “serious lapses” — and may have scuppered the chance of many of the children’s lives being saved — it becomes difficult to believe, in the face of Shivpal Yadav’s obscene playing down of the tragedy, that the state government as a whole finds anything awry in what happened in Nithari village as well as in the police stations of Noida.
If duty and morality cannot stir an administration out of its torpor, there is something else that may force it to take action: the impending assembly elections. It is unfortunate that politics has seeped into a tragedy as ghastly as the murder of children and the police apathy that accompanied it. But if the poor — and the families who were shooed away by the police when they came to complain about their children’s disappearance are not the only ones denied justice in this country because of their socio-economic status — have any weapon, it is their votes. It would be unwise, as well as downright ugly, for other political parties to use the Nithari killings as a single tool for ‘regime change’ in the state. Comments like those made by Congressman and Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi about the state “having accepted their involvement... by taking action against the police” do not help matters at all. In fact, such statements provide the Mulayam Singh Yadav administration the excuse that anything it does, right or wrong, is fodder for oppositional cannons. The same logic holds for calls demanding the imposition of President’s Rule in UP at this stage.
Which does not amount to the Samajwadi Party-ruled administration being allowed to go about things as if nothing has happened. The Nithari killings and the police apathy are the horrific and most visible effects of a state that has allowed law and order and statutory accountability to wither away over the years. That is why an angry mob resorted to stone-pelting when Mayawati visited Nithari earlier this week. And that is why there is something specifically rotten in the state of Uttar Pradesh: its polity.