Bulandshahr Violence: How Far Are We from Declaring India a Cow Rashtra?

Politics

Bulandshahr Violence: How Far Are We from Declaring India a Cow Rashtra?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

We entered a new chapter in India’s history this Monday – one that is marked by the mob as the paramount authority in public life. The killing of inspector Subodh Kumar Singh in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr is proof. And even as the news continues to send shockwaves throughout the country, the UP CM seems more concerned about cow slaughter than the murder.

In the wake of Monday’s violence, Adityanath held a meeting in Lucknow on Tuesday with high-ranking officials from his government, including the chief secretary, DGP, principal secretary (home) and additional director general of police (intelligence). It took until Tuesday morning because on the day the killing occurred, Adityanath was attending a laser show in Gorakhpur, as reported in The Wire. After the meeting, Adityanath told his officials that “tough action needs to be taken against those who carried out cow slaughter,” according to the official press release. Threats to the lives of cattle were taken into consideration and the policeman’s death was not even acknowledged. It took until the next morning after much media outrage for an announcement that the CM would visit the family of the murdered cop. Scratch that. Adityanath stayed put in Lucknow, while the policeman’s family travelled to meet him from their home in Etah. Inspector Singh’s son Abhishek told reporters at the meet, “I plead with the society, people of my generation, please don’t get into cow and communal politics. My father used to say above all, be a good citizen.”

It’s a plea that in all likelihood will fall on deaf ears. Our priorities are clear – the lives of cows are more important than those of citizens, and public servants even. What seemed like a bad joke a couple of years ago has become reality. In a debate on Mirror Now, a Bajrang Dal spokesperson made the organisation’s stand clear. “Gai insaan nahi?!” countered Balraj Dungar, when the anchor Faye D’Souza asked him whose life is more important – a person’s or a cow’s? His response does not come as a shocker anymore; in fact this is what one has come to expect from the Dal, the organisation to which the prime accused in the cop’s killing belongs.

It truly feels like we are living in an episode of Black Mirror, a dystopian reality where the sister of a slain policeman mourns how the CM can only chant “gau, gau, gau” while her brother gave up his life.

The UP government’s initial response to the Bulandshahr isn’t some big political faux pas. It’s their official plan of action. Two days on, the Adityanath government is not making a half-hearted apology. In fact, it believes that “the incident is part of a bigger conspiracy, and hence all those directly or indirectly related to cow slaughter should be arrested in a time-bound manner.” So naturally, arrests had to be made. Acting on an FIR filed by Bajrang Dal member Yogesh Raj, who is coincidentally the prime accused in the inspector’s murder, police arrested two 11- and 12-year-old Muslim boys for cow slaughter, detaining them for a few hours before releasing them when they learned the “accused” were not in the village where the carcasses were found. Meanwhile, Raj himself is absconding, and releasing videos proclaiming his innocence over social media from locations unknown to the police.

It truly feels like we are living in an episode of Black Mirror, a dystopian reality where the sister of a slain policeman mourns how the CM can only chant “gau, gau, gau” while her brother gave up his life. Add in Adityanath’s claims of a cow-slaughtering conspiracy, and you’ve got one wild script. But perhaps reality is stranger than any fiction, because there are reports of a conspiracy afoot — just not the one Adityanath is worried about.

The slain inspector’s sister Sunita Singh stated that she believed her brother was killed by the police, because of his involvement in the investigation of Mohammed Akhlaq’s lynching. Even the Director General of Police in UP, OP Singh, smells something fishy in the way the violence unfolded on Monday. “The incident in Bulandshahr is a big conspiracy. This is not only a law and order issue. How did the cattle carcass reach there? Who brought it, why, and under what circumstances?” he told NDTV.

Clearly, the policeman’s death is an inconvenience to those who seek to use the incident to further their hardline Hindutva agenda. The fact that all the accused belong to right-wing organisations like VHP, Bajrang Dal, and BJP youth wing,  is no surprise, nor is the way that Suresh Chavhanke, editor-in-chief of Hindi news channel Sudarshan News attempted to link the violence to the Muslim ijtema taking place in Bulandshahr in several tweets posted on the same day. Even after the UP police fact-checked him on Twitter, clarifying that the violence had nothing to do with the ijtema, Chavhanke did not delete his posts, choosing to leave his fake news out in the public sphere.

Adityanath’s reluctance to address Subodh Kumar Singh’s death is a dog whistle to the rabid Hindutva lynch mobs.

We should all become familiar with such fear-mongering and attempts to drive a communal wedge in society before next year’s election, because the baffling response to Bulandshahr feels like the prologue to a very dark chapter in our history. Where the CM is protecting cows over people and the PM is busy attending Priyanka Chopra’s wedding reception, turning a blind eye to the murder of police officer and a 20-year-old local. Adityanath’s reluctance to address Subodh Kumar Singh’s death is a dog whistle to the rabid Hindutva lynch mobs, declaring open season on those who stand between him and his vision of India’s future.

In a column titled “The Ease of Killing a Policeman in Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh”, journalist and editor Harish Khare skewers the government’s tendency to look the other way when mobs run riot, even when it costs a policeman’s life. He paints a picture of an India where ordinary citizens live in mortal fear of falling afoul of the mob, where dissent against the majority can be met with a violent demise. At the end of the column, he signs off with the chilling prediction that it’s “Bulandshahr today, India tomorrow.”

And that, is frightening.

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