Few people would disagree: Uttar Pradesh has a grave law and order problem. And if anything, things seem to be getting worse. Just on Wednesday, as many as four grievous incidents of public disorder were reported in the news. However, there seemed to be no cogent response to this from the Uttar Pradesh administration – other than, ironically, India waking the next morning to see newspapers ads across the country claiming a “zero tolerance policy” towards crime in the state.
On Wednesday, a gang of men attacked two Kashmiri roadside vendors in Lucknow. How broken is the state’s law and order can be gauged from the fact that not only did the assault take place in broad daylight, it was the attackers themselves who filmed and then distributed a video of the assault.
In Muzzafarnagar, on the same day, Bharatiya Janata Party workers assaulted a young man for simply questioning the government’s claims with respect to jobs and education.
However, the BJP did not limit its assaults to outsiders. On the same day in Sant Kabir Nagar district, an altercation between a BJP MP and MLA ended in blows. Sant Kabir Nagar’s BJP MP Sharad Tripathi demanded to know why his name was not included on the foundation stone for a road. In response, Menhdawal MLA Rakesh Singh Baghel said that he had decided not to use the name. The heated argument eventually led to Tripathi taking off his shoe and whacking Baghel multiple times on the head with it.
The matter did not end there. Angry at the assault, supporters of Baghel then proceeded to ransack the office of the district magistrate.
And that wasn’t all for the day. Clashes took place between the police and residents of a slum in Meerut – an altercation that ended with the residents alleging that the police set fire to their homes. As the disorder spread, rioting mobs set fire to private vehicles and buses, fighting pitched battles with the police.
Wednesday was an illustration of just how shambolic the state of law and order was in Uttar Pradesh. In a more ideal world, this would have prompted the state government to address the matter: admit that there was a grave problem and maybe propose steps to fix it. But the only visible response seemed to be – advertisements. On Thursday, the state government had ads across multiple cities claiming “improved law and order”. “Zero Tolerance Policy’ towards crime in place, read the first bullet point – a ironic point to read the day after multiple incidents of public disorder witnessed in the state.
Even if the advertisements had been planned earlier, how spending money to advertise Uttar Pradesh’s “improved law and order” in Mumbai or Kolkata was helping the citizens of Uttar Pradesh is difficult to see. Would it not be better if the state government admitted to the problem and diverted its resources to fixing it rather than spend money on public relations?