Chief Minister Adityanath has proved wrong those who forecast that his choice as the head of government of India’s most populated state would unleash a plethora of furies. Instead, he has surprised detractors by embracing such necessary but controversial steps as making the teaching of English accessible even to primary school students in government institutions. This is in contrast to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of Karnataka, who is displaying the zeal of his actual ideological mentor, Ram Manmohar Lohia, in trying to stamp out the international link language from a state that is the hub of the Information Technology industry in the country. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was presumed to have a modern mindset, although little of this was in evidence during the Manmohan Decade. His silence over this action of Siddaramaiah is unfortunate.

Instead of competing in a race designed to prepare states in India for the challenges of the 21st century, the Karnataka Chief Minister appears to be in a hurry to bring the state back to the 19th. The fact that nearly four hundred million citizens of the Republic of India still subsist in poverty is a mark of the comprehensive failure of the political class of the country to ensure a rate of growth adequate to lift the population from dire want into a bearable existence. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi has entrusted him with the fortunes of a state that is key to the BJP’s fortunes, it is expected of Yogi Adityanath that he will ensure an improvement in the law and order condition of Uttar Pradesh. Without this, progress will remain absent. In such a context, recent happenings in Saharanpur are a disgrace to the entire country. Individuals from the most disadvantaged sections of society were set up cruelly and in some cases, fatally. The most recent victim of violence was Ashish, who was felled soon after listening to a speech by BSP supremo Mayawati, under whom law and order in the state was regarded as far better than was the case under Mulayam Singh.

Chief Minister Adityanath has acted correctly in granting Rs 15 lakh to the family of the deceased youth as well as Rs 50,000 for each of the injured. The suspension of the Senior Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate at Saharanpur were necessary steps and it speaks well for the resolve of the Chief Minister that they were taken. In addition, Yogi Adityanath has transferred some other senior officers out of the district and brought in those officers who are regarded as being more effective in quelling mob violence. Given the proliferation of miscreants in Uttar Pradesh, this is not a simple task. Indeed, within a short time of the murder of the Dalit youth, an individual belonging to the Rajput community was shot and severely hurt by miscreants on a motorcycle. Fortunately, the police were able to prevent the conflagration from spreading in an action-reaction cycle tragically familiar to families in India that have lost loved ones in mindless violence. In such a situation, while it is natural for politicians to seek to gain temporary advantage over the opponents as a consequence of the tragedy playing out in the fractured district, such a tendency should be resisted. It is, for example, absurd to pin the blame for happenings on the BJP, for a breakdown of law and order will harm rather than help that party. Indeed, after the new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was sworn in, a torrent of negative reports appeared in media across the world, most vying with each other to characterise the 45-year old as a fanatic, although it must be admitted that some of Adityanath’s reported comments in the past were wholly unsuitable for a yogi to utter. Fortunately, authority appears to have mellowed the BJP’s popular state leader, and his utterances after being sworn in have overall been moderate and helpful. Saharanpur is a test for Chief Minister Adityanath that he needs to pass not only for the sake of his state and party but for the country.

There needs to be Zero Tolerance for the kind of violence that has been on display in Saharanpur for weeks altogether.

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