Vikas Dubey symbolises the failure of the State | Opinion
His rise is a classic tale of a broken administrative system, flawed policing, and corrupt electoral politics.
Semi-urban policing has rarely witnessed a slaughter of the kind that took place on July 2, when a police team went to the outskirts of Kanpur on a mission to apprehend the notorious criminal Vikas Dubey. The police party was ambushed by Dubey’s henchmen and eight policemen were brutally massacred. The team was showered with gunfire from the rooftops, before it could reach the criminal’s citadel. The policemen were chased, shot at close range, and hacked to death in a manner reminiscent of Naxal barbarity. The gangster, tipped off about the raid, escaped and was eventually arrested in Ujjain on Thursday.
Dubey’s rise through the ranks of crime hierarchy began as a grassroots worker in the 1990s when he was patronised by local politicians. Grassroots is the prefix buzzword for planning, politics, NGO and worker. In reality, grassroots politics at the village level reflects myriad vested interests represented by caste, money, political parties, officialdom, landed gentry and various individuals vying for power. The overriding theme of grassroots politics is domination of the rural bureaucracy comprising the patwari, tehsildar, thanedar, kotwar, ranger and compounder. When institutions do not deliver justice, the political dispensation takes over, offering justice selectively to its own set of people. Hence, there is a vested interest in keeping the grassroots institutions in a state of inertia.
Thus, Dubey grabbed land from some people for his citadel but also freed land for others aligned with him. He directed the sarpanch to build a road. In such a vitiated environment, can panchayat elections be immune from political influence? His diktat would keep the electric substation functioning round-the-clock. This is how the mafia displays power, exercises influence and garners support. The Brahmin-dominated villages in the area became a veritable vote bank under Dubey, attracting legislators and other netas.
In 2001, Dubey killed a state minister, and, that too, in a police station in front of more than 20 witnesses — reaching the zenith of his career. All 20 witnesses turned hostile. Everyone was relieved — from the police, bureaucracy and prosecution to his patrons. Prosecution falls under the collector, who couldn’t be bothered over a case acquittal.
The world over, the investigation of a crime is prosecution guided in order to create an ironclad case. But, in India, a babu with no interest or qualification, heads the prosecution. After the acquittal, no appeal was filed, nor action taken against the hostile witnesses. Most rural problems are land-related but land grab by Dubey was ignored by the tehsildars. All these examples illustrate how a weak, pliant regime cannot bring the mafia to book.
After the encounter in Bikru, the top brass of the police needed urgent, serious thinking to address core issues and plot a future course of action. Instead, it went on a media drive — demolishing houses, airing interviews of criminals in custody, conducting forensic studies of cars in the glare of TV cameras, announcing enquiries and names of co-plotters within the police in what seemed like a knee-jerk reaction. But they chose to ignore important questions. Why did a police team go to arrest a notorious gangster without being well-armed and equipped? Why was a Special Investigations Team not sent instead? Why was no action taken on the deceased deputy superintendent of police’s complaint against the thanedar who was allegedly mixed up with the gangster?
Who will fix this broken criminal justice system and the shoddy revenue administration which impact the poor the most? People faced with biased or non-performing local officers and unable to access the senior ones, turn to public representatives, who, in turn, first check their credentials according to the way they voted. As per the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), 143 of 403 UP’s legislators have criminal cases against them. Legislators rely heavily on influencers of vote banks and the Dubeys provide invaluable service during election campaigns, especially on the voting day, when some voters have to be ferried to the booths and others threatened to stay away. They can delay polling and create disturbances as the situation demands. Thus, while Dubey rose to fame in one regime, his wife fought elections in another regime under the then ruling party’s banner.
Why can’t the state government stem the rot? It is often the chief minister (CM) or a heavyweight who holds the home portfolio. But handling home is a serious business and cannot be run by dispensing security on-demand or issuing transfer orders based on sifarish. Addressing the broken criminal justice system is a long haul and needs time, application and energy. It also requires political will and domain expertise.
The UP CM promised, when he took over, that he will wipe out the mafia. Now he should make good on his promise because, ultimately, it is only he who can set things right. He has examples of a few fearless CMs in the Hindi belt who took on the mafias and smashed their networks. Such politicians are remembered for long.
To begin with, he should post fearless and honest district magistrates and SPs (UP has quite a few of them) in the vulnerable districts on the basis of merit alone. He should give them all the resources they need and the freedom to function as they see fit and shield them from politics. The mafia will be on the run in one year’s time.
If the blood-splattered village road in Bikru does not teach us any lessons, India’s democratic credentials will be flawed and irreparably scarred.