The killing of police officer Subodh Kumar by a mob protesting alleged cow slaughter is deeply disturbing and points to growing religious polarisation in western UP months ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Along with Inspector Singh, who was shot from close range, a local village youth was also caught in the ruckus and died of bullet wounds.
The conflagration began when some people from Mahaw village created a roadblock on the Bulandshahr-Syana road after the carcass of a cow and its progeny was found in a jungle near the village.
The mob later resorted to heavy stone pelting against policemen who were trying to convince them to clear the road. They turned extremely violent burning down a local police post and vehicles parked there. The fact that Inspector Singh had bullet a wound also raises questions around the manner in which the anti-cow slaughter protest was organized. The slaughter of cows is banned in Uttar Pradesh and instances of alleged cow-killing have led to several incidents of mob lynching in the state. In fact, since Yogi Adityanath became the Chief Minister of UP in March 2017, UP police has been overzealous in enforcing the anti-cow slaughter law and shutting down slaughterhouses under the orders of the UP government.
The slain inspector, Subodh Kumar himself had been the investigating officer in the case of mob-lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in September 2015 in Dadri, near Delhi. Akhlaq had been accused of stealing and killing a calf. The Dadri lynching had evoked national and international outrage against communalism and ‘intolerance’, and led to several prominent Indians returning their national awards and honours in protest.
The latest case of mob rampage in Bulandshahr comes in the backdrop of a three-day 'Tablighi Ijtema' or a religious gathering that began in the town on December 1. This incident occurred on the last day of Ijtema. It’s important to note here that the three-day Ijtema had passed off peacefully with even stories of Hindus opening their temples for Muslims to pray. This incident of violence over alleged cow slaughter has disturbed Hindu-Muslim harmony once again.
Also worth remembering is the fact that earlier this year, under chief minister Yogi Adityanath's watch BJP lost three crucial Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh. Yogi’s own constituency of Gorakhpur was lost to a debut contender from the Samajwadi Party- BSP combine. Similarly, BJP lost the prestigious Phulpur seat to another candidate from the SP-BSP alliance. And perhaps more relevant against the backdrop of the Bulandshahr violence, the BJP also lost the nearby Kairana Lok Sabha seat to a Muslim woman, Tabassum Hasan who fought on a Rashtriya Lok Dal ticket and was backed by the SP-BSP combine.
This time around, given the deteriorating law and order situation in the state and increasing resentment among Dalits and Muslims against the government, the BJP has an uphill task ahead of the 2019 elections.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)