NOT COWED DOWN
Mob violence of the right-wing Cow Klux Klan [killing over mere rumours of cow slaughter or beef consumption across the country] has claimed more than 30 lives in the last four years. The latest such incident in Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh, however, stands out as the most brazen act by cow vigilantes, where a police inspector and a civilian were shot dead during a riot earlier this month.
On December 3, Hindu activists from Bajrang Dal in Bulandshahr went berserk alleging that a cow had been slaughtered by Muslims. The activists claimed to have found the carcass of a cow in the fields.
Inflamed by the carcass, they brought the carcass in tractor trolleys and tried to jam an important road in the town. Soon the police was called for help. As a police team led by inspector Subodh Kumar Singh reached the spot, it was attacked with stones.
When Inspector Singh tried to reason with the demonstrators to persuade them to clear the traffic jam they had caused, he was attacked both with blunt objects and also fired at, killing him instantly.
In the police firing that followed, a youth named Sumit Anand was also shot. He succumbed to the gunshot wounds in a hospital later.
A Special Investigation Team [SIT] has been constituted to probe the matter and submit a report to the Uttar Pradesh government at the earliest. So far three leaders from the Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP] and BJP have been named in the FIR lodged by police in the violence.
VHP activist Upendra Raghav, BJP city youth wing President Shikhar Agarwal and Bajrang Dal district coordinator Yogesh Raj have been named in the First Information Report.
The police have also arrested two others -- said to be villagers -- while five persons have been detained in connection with the violence. The police have registered a case against 88 persons, of whom 25 have been named.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath disappointed many with his first statement on the Bulandshahr incident, calling it an "accident". He had earlier said the incident was the result of a "big conspiracy" but at a media event in Delhi later said that the incident was actually an accident.
"No mob lynching happened in Uttar Pradesh, what happened in Bulandshahr is an accident," Adityanath said.
His words were an echo of the state police which maintained it would be too early to conclude about the involvement of any organisation in the violence although local officials linked the mayhem to right-wing Hindu groups.
What surprised many was that the Chief Minister along with senior police officers made statements about arresting those responsible for cow slaughter instead of catching the criminals responsible for the two deaths.
Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP] chief Mayawati blamed the Uttar Pradesh government for the violence, saying the "lawlessness" in the state was a result of its "faulty and wrong policies".
In a statement, the former four-time Chief Minister said that government was now faced with the same mobocracy it inculcated to make political gains over the past many years.
She said the Bulandshahr mob violence reflected that the state government had lost grip on right-wing Hindu cadres which earlier targeted only Dalits, backward castes and Muslims.
Mayawati said that announcing financial assistance to the victims' families was not enough and sought assurance from the Adityanath government that such incidents won't be repeated in the future.
Meanwhile, the CPI-M said the Bulandshahr incident was planned to hike communal tensions ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"The sudden eruption of violent protests took place on the pretext of cow slaughter due to carcasses found in dubious circumstances in a village in Siana area. This fits in with the pattern of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP] and other Hindutva outfits instigating communal tensions," it said.
The family of the slain inspector has alleged that the Inspector was shot dead in a planned manner and under a deep-rooted conspiracy. Singh was linked to the investigation of the 2015 lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri.
His son Shrey demanded a fair and proper probe into the killing from all angles.
"He [Singh] gave his life in the line of duty. I have faith in police and the SIT which is investigating the incident. My priority is for a proper and fair probe. The SIT report should cover all anglers. My father is a martyr.
"Strict action must be taken against the culprits. Mob lynching is a big social evil and it has to be dealt with strictly. I want justice for my father. This incident should be made an example of so that people do not indulge in such crimes," he said.
According to IndiaSpend, Muslims were the target of 52% of violence centred on bovine issues over nearly eight years [2010 to 2017] and comprised 84% of 25 Indians killed in 60 incidents.
These attacks were reported from 19 of 29 Indian states, with Uttar Pradesh , Haryana , Karnataka , Gujarat , Delhi , Rajasthan  and Madhya Pradesh  reporting the highest number of cases.
What is more worrying is that most cow vigilante attacks are based on rumours, according to the IndiaSpend analysis of media reports.
It is important to remember that cows have always been central to clashes between the Hindus and Muslims in the country. The earliest such riot was reported in Uttar Pradesh in 1893, which took place after Muslims had been stopped from slaughtering cows during an annual festival.
It is unfortunate that the Uttar Pradesh regime prioritised the investigation into the death of a cow over the murder of a police inspector. Suspects in the cow slaughter case were arrested with alacrity while those accused of murder were caught much later.
Mohammad Akhlaq’s killing in September 2015 was Bulandshahr’s first brush with a gory mob lynching by cow vigilantes. If the state government continues to turn a blind eye to mob action in a communally sensitive state like Uttar Pradesh in the hope of fanning passions ahead of elections in 2019, it will only reap a dividend of despair.