The Big Story: Return gift

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath took charge of the state promising to end the “jungle raj” he claimed had existed under his predecessors. If jungle raj means abusing power to enable what would otherwise be unlawful behaviour, Adityanath – known as Yogi to his supporters – has simply ushered in a Gorakhpur-flavoured version of the item, rather than the Saifai style favoured by the Samajwadi Party.

Adityanath’s government has decided that it will kill people accused of crimes in so-called encounters, without due process, since actually having to prosecute a case is too much work. In December 2017, his government ordered the withdrawal of a case in which he himself was accused of violating prohibitory orders, a textbook case of a conflict of interest.

On Thursday, the Indian Express reported that Adityanath’s government has begun the process of withdrawing 131 cases linked to the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, including those in which the charges are murder and attempt to murder. Those riots resulted in 62 deaths, with many more injured. Thousands lost their homes in the violence which polarised western UP in the run-up to elections in 2014, where the Bharatiya Janata Party eventually swept nearly all seats.

In total, 503 cases were registered in relation to the violence. Of these, BJP Member of Parliament Sanjiv Balyan, who is an accused in one of the cases himself, reportedly approached Adityanath’s government with other party leaders, demanding that 179 cases be withdrawn. All the names listed in those cases were Hindu. The government sent the matter on to the Law Department, which has since sought details and the opinion of district magistrates who are overseeing these cases. No rationale has been given officially.

If the matter does proceed, it is only further proof that Adityanath is bringing in one kind of lawlessness to replace another. What message does the withdrawal of riot cases send to communities scarred by such violence? What other conclusion could one possibly draw from a government that treats due process as merely another option? How else could you view a chief minister who abuses his power to scotch cases against himself?

The Big Scroll

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  1. The government appears to believe that India does not need to prepare for a two-front war but has not told the military so, writes Sushant Singh in the Indian Express. This means that the forces are expected to be ready for one without the funds that will enable that.
  2. “A minority religion status does mean financial gain for the Lingayat mathas which run dozens of higher education institutions. But this factor cannot fully explain their struggle,” writes Chandan Gowda in the Hindu. “The speeches, articles and interviews of Lingayat swamis bespeak a genuine concern about not letting the distinctive Basava philosophy be subsumed under a sanatana Hindu dharma.”
  3. “We ought to ask our political parties what they stand for besides contesting elections – what are their abiding concerns? While the BJP has effectively announced its ultimate goal to be a Hindu Rashtra, the Congress is yet to convincingly fill-in the right-hand side of the equation: Congress minus Elections = ?” asks Satish Deshpande in the Indian Express.


Don’t miss

Angikaar Choudhury asks whether cricket is getting too short-tempered for its own good.

“Across the ocean in South Africa, a tense, high-profile Test series is taking place between the hosts and Australia. The bowling from both sides has been world-class, the batting perhaps not so, and yet it has still featured one of AB De Villiers’s best-ever Test knocks.

Yet the narrative has more often than not been about the off-field drama: a heated, bad-tempered stairwell ‘stoush’ between David Warner and Quinton de Kock, and more recently, the issue of Kagiso Rabada’s continued transgressions. The fact that he has managed to escape a two-Test ban for an alleged shoulder-barge to the Aussie captain Steve Smith shouldn’t take away from a larger issue: the debate over a hypothetical line has often descended into the ludicrous.

Sample the line of arguments this series has seen recently: Is calling someone a ‘sook’ball right? Is getting personal all fine and dandy? And perhaps the most ridiculous: can I pass comments about my opponent’s wife’s sexual habits? And if I do, is the person allowed to react?

Surely, at some point, you have to say enough is enough?”