Dubious Record: A Progress Report on UP's Law and Order Under the BJP Govt

If Uttar Pradesh is the blueprint of ideal governance BJP has to offer, then India is smoothly moving towards fascism.

Listen to this article:

Uttar Pradesh is no utopia in terms of rule of law. There have been numerous instances in the past five years of the BJP government where the law and order machinery has failed to fulfil the basic aspirations of people. Either the ruling government has tolerated atrocities against women, minorities, dissenters and the poor, or has it been instrumental in perpetuating violence. Given this scenario, it is rather ironic that BJP tries to project its record on law and order in UP as an achievement of sorts, which will benefit the party electorally.

On January 29, 2022, Union home minister Amit Shah targeted Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for the “poor” law and order record in UP between 2012-17 when the latter was the chief minister. And, he contrasted it by saying that the situation in the past five years has considerably improved.

This claim by Shah appears problematic, mainly for two related reasons:

First, Shah’s statement represents a methodological flaw in assessing the standard of the law and order. Rather than considering respect for the rule of law as a virtue, judged by its own standard, Shah seems satisfied because, he believes, the BJP government has performed better than the previous SP government.

The respect for the rule of law, therefore, is relative. It sets a standard that is not objectively ascertained by the character of the rule of law as ‘an unqualified human good’, but rather a conveniently ascertained self-standard.

To celebrate, for instance, a certain percentage dip in criminal offences is a mockery of the rule of law. It trivialises suffering and exposes the façade behind the ugly naked imagination of the present ruling government. It constructs an indeterminate standard in the name of respect for the rule of law to deceive the masses. Coming from the home minister of this country, such a statement is reflective of the disturbing feature of Indian politics and the shady commitment of this government to the rule of law.

Also read: Former Civil Servants Bemoan ‘Complete Breakdown’ of Governance in Uttar Pradesh

Second, Shah’s statement is directly in contrast with the realities that have existed in UP over the past five years.

The list presented below sheds light on the failure of the law and order in UP, and the sorry state of affairs that people of UP have been burdened with.

Police excesses

In 2020-21, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) registered 11,130 cases on complaints relating to alleged violations of human rights by police forces of the country. The maximum number of complaints were from UP.

Four United Nations Special Rapporteurs expressed concern regarding allegations of at least 59 extrajudicial killings by the police in UP between March 2017 and December 2018. They also sent detailed information to the Government of India on 15 such cases.

Representative image of personnel of the Uttar Pradesh Police. Photo: PTI

As many as five notices have been issued by NHRC to the UP government on instances of custodial torture between 2017 and 2021. But the government there is yet to take any concrete steps. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that India does not have a specific law to deal with torture, and is not a party to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).

As per a report published by the National Campaign Against Torture, out of the 125 deaths in police custody in the year 2019 in India, UP stood at the top with 14 deaths.

Crackdown on dissenters 

In July 2020, the UN Human Rights Committee, in its general comment no. 37 on Article 21 of the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights, reaffirmed that protesting peacefully, online or in person, is a fundamental human right. Similarly in 2012, the Supreme Court of India in Ramlila Maidan Incident v. Home Secretary, Union of India & Ors. had observed that the right to protest is a fundamental right.

However, during anti-CAA protests in UP, several people were killed following clashes with the state police, though the state denied the same. Besides, thousands were arrested and put under preventive detention. Both NHRC and UP Human Rights Commission (UP-HRC) have separately issued notices to UP Police regarding action taken during the anti-CAA protests.

Also read: Two Years Since Killing of Anti-CAA Protesters in UP, NHRC Conducts Spot Inquiry

According to the available data, UP recorded the maximum internet shutdowns during the anti-CAA protests. More recently, farmers’ protest against the contentious farm laws, that were eventually repealed by the Parliament, also saw arrests and killing of several protestors in UP.

Spate of ‘encounters’

In the period from March 2017 to August 2021, 146 people were killed by the UP police in claimed encounters.

As many as 8,472 encounters took place during this period in which 3,302 people were shot at and injured by the UP Police which has left many disabled, mostly after sustaining bullet injuries to legs. Till August 2020, 37% of those killed in the encounters between 2017-2020 were Muslims.

Also read: Under Adityanath, UP Police Has Injured Over 3,300 in ‘Encounters’, Finds Report

The UN human rights experts in January 2019 had expressed concern over the extra-judicial killings in UP. They also highlighted their concern over statements issued by the high-ranking state government and police officials seeming to incite, justify or sanction killings. The NHRC has sent at least four notices to the UP government on encounter killings. In 2018, the Supreme Court had also issued a notice to the UP government on fake encounters.

Rise in crimes against women

As per National Commission for Women (NCW), there has been a 46% rise in complaints of crimes against women in the first eight months of 2021 in India. More than half of these complaints were from the state of UP. While chief minister Yogi Adityananth has shamelessly stated that women, buffaloes, and bulls are all safe in UP, the state reported the highest number of crimes against women in the country in 2018.

As per the data published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), of the reported 3,78,277 cases of crime against women in the country in 2018, UP reported the maximum with 59,445 cases. Following this trend, UP recorded 59,853 cases in 2019; yet again, the highest in the country.

Police personnel stand guard near Bulgaddhi village following outrage over death of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped, in Hathras district, Saturday, October 3, 2020. Photo: PTI

A UN official has also expressed concern over the safety of women and girls after the rape and murder of a young Dalit woman in the Hathras district of UP. The UN Resident Coordinator in India, Renata Lok-Dessallien said that she was “saddened and concerned” at the rising cases of sexual violence against women in the country.

Systemic targeting of minorities

As per a fact-finding report, 300 instances of violence against Christians were reported in the first nine months of 2021 across the country. Amongst all the states, UP reported the maximum number of such instances. The vast majority of such attacks took place against Christians belonging to the Dalit and tribal communities.

In 2019, UP reported the highest number of crimes against Scheduled Castes (SC) in the country. As per the data published by the NCRB, one-fourth of the reported 45,852 cases of crimes against SCs in the country came from UP. As per the records of the NHRC, between 2016-19, the Commission registered 2,008 cases of harassment of Dalits and minorities from the entire country. More than 40% of such cases were from UP.

As per the NCRB data updated till December 31, 2019, over 65% of the total prison inmates in the country belonged to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Class categories. UP had the maximum number of overall prison inmates in the country. The maximum number of prisoners from the OBC, SC, and ‘Others’ categories were also in Uttar Pradesh jails.

Also read: Adityanath Ramping Up Anti-Minority Rhetoric Is an Act of Desperation Amid High-Profile Exits

As per a report of the Human Rights Watch, members of the ruling BJP are responsible for vigilante campaigns against the consumption of beef and cattle trade – the victims of which are predominantly Muslims and Dalits.

Curbs on media and journalists

In November 2020, the Editors Guild of India had written to the chief minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, to address vital issues concerning the protection of press freedom and the rights and safety of working journalists in UP. The Guild listed six instances where journalists faced harassment or were arrested.

As per the Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) report published in June 2020, about 55 journalists were targeted in India for doing their jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown ​​between March 25 and May 31, 2020. The maximum of such attacks on journalists during this period took place in UP. The attacks on journalists and restrictions on freedom of expression are widely reported.

Riots and fake cases

According to the NCRB data, UP recorded 5,714 cases of riots in 2019, 8,908 in 2018 and 8,990 in 2017, respectively. As per an answer given in the Lok Sabha by Union minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir in December 2018, UP saw 195 cases of communal violence in 2017.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Photo: PTI

Between 2018 and 2020, National Security Act, 1980 was invoked by the UP government in 120 cases. However, as many as 94 such cases have been quashed by the Allahabad high court. Forty-one such cases related to cow slaughter and all accused belonged to the minority community. The court regarded this as the misuse of the NSA and went on to observe that much important information in the police FIRs was “cut and pasted”.

A laboratory for fascist forces

These are merely a cursory outline of atrocities that have been committed during the last five years.

A party that feeds on communal hatred, jingoism and the exploitation of the marginalised sections can afford to ‘celebrate’ such a track record. If UP is the blueprint of ideal governance BJP has to offer, then India is smoothly moving towards fascism. If such a track record can be publicly defended and celebrated in a democratic nation, one has all the reasons to doubt the quality of such a democracy.

India is going through dark times. Minorities, women, activists, lawyers, academics, the poor, basically anyone who dares to dissent are in constant fear of survival. This country, appearing as a Potemkin village, is reeling under the exploitation by forces that have long desired to kill the soul of India; UP is their most invested laboratory.

If the road to Delhi passes through Lucknow, the standard of rule of law in UP is also reflective of the filth and hatred this country is being thrown at. The fact that the abysmal record of the Yogi government is defended by the Union home minister is reflective of the times we are living in.

To lie best has become the essence of Indian politics. It is, therefore, imperative for the progressive forces to expose the deception, to document the atrocious reality being played before our eyes, and be the voice of the voiceless.

To remain indifferent in these troubling times is to side with the forces of destruction.

Dr. Abdullah Nasir teaches at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.