Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath continues with his prevarications on the Bulandshahr issue and, unsurprisingly, his administration follows him in attempting to deflect attention away from the primary issue.
On Wednesday, the police arrested three men in connection with enquiries into the slaughter of cows and the discovery of their carcasses in a village in Bulandshahr district. It is legitimate to follow leads in the investigation into an illegal act, but there is a question of priorities that has to be dealt with. And, of course, there is a larger question of how irresponsible political rhetoric can subvert the basic conventions of administration and the rule of law.
But first, we must address the issue of what Adityanath, in his wisdom, has been up to. When the Bulandshahr violence broke out earlier this month and mobs instigated or led by rightwing Hindutva groups killed a police inspector, the chief minister had righteously (and, indeed, properly) declared that those involved in the lynching of the inspector would be bought to book. Within days, however, he had diluted his position. Those involved in cow slaughter, he had said, must be identified and prosecuted because the lives of cows were as precious as those of humans.
Uttar Pradesh’s director-general of police and the officer heading the investigation had echoed this view, the latter giving a pass to one of the principal accused persons involved in the violence. That a colleague had lost his life trying to do his job did not seem to have cut much ice with him. Little wonder, then, that while the investigation into the cow slaughter case proceeds apace, that into the murder of inspector Subodh Kumar Singh has been consigned to dark corners of a very deep freezer.
By now, however, Adityanath has ‘nuanced’ his position on the Bulandshahr violence and murder further. A fortnight or so ago, he had expressed the opinion that the whole affair was an accident. On Wednesday, the chief minister said that the violence was a political conspiracy hatched by those who were losing support in the state. "Cows were slaughtered to in the region to spark communal violence. Such people have been exposed," he said.
Further, Adityanath lapsed into a self-adulatory vein. "Those who are giving unnecessary statements are doing it to hide their failures, instead they should applaud the government and should thank the government," he opined. Let us try to decode, the chief minister’s later statements.
First, how can mob violence that leads to the murder of a police inspector be an accident? Let us not forget that Singh’s service revolver and mobile phone were stolen after he was killed. Adityanath categorically said that it was not a lynching. There are insurmountable logical and semantic problems here to which we will revert.
Let us progress to the conspiracy theory. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister has said that some people slaughtered cows to spark communal violence and they had been exposed. The problem, of course, is that there was no communal violence in Bulandshahr and till the time of writing it has not become clear who exactly has been exposed or whether anyone has been exposed at all. Instead, what we know for certain is that a mob instigated and led by rightwing Hindutva elements attacked a police picket, set vehicles on fire and killed a police inspector who was trying to control the situation. Further chief ministerial elucidation would indeed be edifying for the public.
Then there is the addendum. Adityanath says that those who are giving unnecessary statements are doing it to hide their failures. Who exactly? And what failures? The opposition has been doing what is expected of it: pinning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its government down and calling it to account. A group of former bureaucrats have issued a statement unequivocally criticising Adityanath and deploring the manner in which a legally constituted government is subverting the rule of law and the fundamental principles of constitutional democracy. In what have they failed?
All this is part of the smoke-and-mirrors political strategy so beloved of the BJP and the forces of Hindutva, of course, which is why we are encountering difficult logical and semantic problems. Set up straw men, knock them down and pretend to be great defenders of some imaginary national good. The problem is that if the straw men were some figments of the imagination, then all the BJP and its cohorts would be guilty of some kind of harmless medieval quixotry, but the straw men are not imaginary people. They are real: the minorities and the Dalits are the most important targets of the Hindutva merchants, whose tilting at windmills attacks the foundations of the nation, constituted law, democracy and its institutions, and the conventions and consensus that have helped keep this country together.
The BJP’s vision of another India–a Hindu state–encapsulates a dystopic political landscape in which nothing will survive other than majoritarian triumphalism. Bulandshahr demonstrates that unequivocally. It also demonstrates that the BJP is determined to undermine all manner of institutions and conventions in the way in which the enquiry into the murder of a police officer is sought to be deflected by rhetoric about cow slaughter.
We are left with two questions. Is Adityanath an aberration or is he part of the design of the politics of Hindutva? The latter seems to be the more logical answer, even though his eccentric approach is also an embarrassment for the ruling party. The other question concerns the future of democracy: What happens when the yogi becomes the commissar?
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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2018 21:18:16 IST