Two instances of leaders reacting to the unfolding situations on the ground have left people shell-shocked. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, astounded one and all when he proclaimed on TV that “revenge” would be taken from those who had indulged in rioting, while agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the defaulters would have to compensate for the losses incurred by the state. Concurrently, Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, attempted to mislead the people by claiming that the police had tried to strangulate her and that she had been pushed to the ground while she was proceeding to meet a victim of the ongoing protests.
It was most unfortunate that a Chief Minister, who should in fact be applying a soothing balm to those affected by the riots, was speaking in terms of vendetta. In these days and times, it may be too much to expect from leaders to take steps towards reconciliation, which, perhaps, is the only way to move ahead. However, Uttar Pradesh is known for its unusual developments and therefore is often referred, by its critics, as “Ulta Pradesh”.
So far as Priyanka is concerned, it was appalling that in order to gain publicity she came down to this level. There is little doubt that Congress leaders are frustrated in the country’s most populous and politically significant state, but that does not furnish anyone a licence to behave in an irresponsible manner. Would anyone imagine that a police officer in any part of this nation would have the gall to shove and throttle Indira Gandhi’s granddaughter? There was no video clip providing evidence of such manhandling and as a consequence, the Congress general secretary lowered herself in the esteem of her countless admirers by this insubstantial gimmick, not befitting her stature.
Yogi’s aggression against the alleged rioters should not infringe the framework of the rule of law. Firstly, the courts have to establish as to who all are guilty of this lawlessness and destruction of public property. Once that process is sorted out, the High Court, through due process, has to arrive at an inference regarding the culpability of the accused persons. It is only through a judicial procedure that any action against the suspects can be initiated, and it cannot be left to the discretion of district authorities to berate and reprimand a citizen without substantial proof. The Supreme Court guidelines, for the compensation of the damage caused in vandalism, are well-defined, and it is evident that the UP administration has not adhered to them.
TV channels have been showing visuals of Muslims in areas like Bulandshahr and other places, offering cheques to district authorities for the damage ensued in the confrontation with the police. First of all the authorities, without establishing the complicity of those involved in the violence, should not show such eagerness in accepting financial remuneration from any community. If money is being offered, it is obvious that the residents of these areas want peace, given that the UP police have itself indulged in large scale criminality and lawlessness.
First and foremost, it must be comprehended that the protests against the CAA are on account of the prevailing confusion and the failure of top leaders to clear the air. There are conflicting statements galore and thus questions arise over the intentions of those in power. The elected government cannot act in a partisan manner or against any community. It has to be even handed in dealing with complex problems.
The UP administration, particularly the police, has never been viewed as politically or communally neutral. Over the years, the PAC was always accused of acting in the most communal manner, a matter which reflects on its training. This conduct has not been specific to any regime, and it has been so regardless of whoever has been in power.
In 1987, as a correspondent for the Hindu, I was covering the Meerut riots and one fine morning, Neena Vyas broke a story in the Statesman that Muslims had been massacred by the PAC at Maliana village and the residents, thereafter, had fled from the area. I was asked to go to Maliana the following day, and while on the way with my photographer colleague, was stopped near the Transport Nagar police station by a sub-inspector. When asked where we were headed, we told him that it was Maliana, and we held a curfew pass issued by Radhey Shyam Kaushik, a top district official.
The SI refused to allow us to proceed any further and after 20 minutes of arguing, wanted to know the name of our newspaper. When we told him that we were representing the Hindu, he suddenly changed his attitude. With a broad smile, he gave us a go-ahead. We discovered later that he had mistaken us as correspondents of a Hindi newspaper also going by the name Hindu, which every afternoon would spew communal venom.
On another note, the Maliana story was found to be inaccurate, but we had actually covered the surrender of Muslim men at Hashimpura, whose photographs were also carried by the Frontline, our sister publication; it turned out that those picked up at Hashimpura were killed by the PAC with their bodies being dumped in the Hindon canal. Incidentally, at that time, the Congress was in power in the state.
Needless to say, mindsets have to change and in place of revenge, the powerful should seek peaceful reconciliation. Between us.