Bollywood star Nasseruddin Shah on Thursday asked whether the life of a cow in India had become more important than that of a police officer. The actor was commenting on the violence that rocked Bulandsahr in Uttar Pradesh on December 3 following the alleged killing of a cow. Two people, including a police officer, were killed in the violence.
The anger that fueled Shah’s comments stems from the callous manner in which the Uttar Pradesh police has responded to the incident, despite the fact that one of their own had been murdered. The day after the violence, the police arrested four people for allegedly killing cows rather than trying to track down the people who had murdered Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh. It then came to light that two of the four were minors. After the media reported on the mistake, the preteens were freed.
On Wednesday, the police arrested three more men in the cow slaughter case. NDTV reported that none of the three arrested men had been named in the first information report initially filed on the incident. The police are also sceptical about the role of the four men they arrested on December 4 for allegedly killing the cows and are expected to release them soon.
The murder of the police officer has clearly become a lower priority for the Uttar Pradesh government. According to the police, Bajrang Dal member Yogesh Raj, the main accused in the killing, is still absconding. But even as he has been in hiding, he has released videos on social media declaring his innocence. The police have claimed that the search for Raj is underway. They have already arrested three men, including an army soldier, for the December 3 violence.
In the meantime, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath has been trying to extract political gains from the troubled situation. After having initially described the death of the police officer as an accident, he changed his tune on Wednesday and declared that the violence was the result of a conspiracy by the Opposition. He even praised himself, stating that his government should be thanked for the steps it has taken.
Adityanath’s comments are a mockery of the legal process. As a group of 83 former bureaucrats have pointed out in an open letter seeking the chief minister’s resignation, the Adityanath government’s actions have led to “hooliganism and thuggery” being mainstreamed in governance. Having failed to arrest the people responsible for murdering the police officer, Adityanath has taken to political mudslinging and brazenly distorting facts.
Blame for the situation also rests partly on the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has maintained, as the former officials said in the letter, a “stony silence” on the actions of a person he handpicked to be chief minister.
Unless the Uttar Pradesh government moves fast to punish those guilty of unleashing the violence, the Centre should take some hard steps and possibly transfer the case to a central agency.