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Bulandshahr Mayhem Reveals a new Nationalist Pecking Order

Badri Raina 15 Dec 2018
If the  politics of the  Narendra Modi tenure in government has taught us anything, it is that two entities of our national life must always remain above and beyond slur, not to say  any active questioning; namely, the  security forces of t he realm and the cow. Indeed, even at the most liberal of forums it has been  gravely risky to  speak one irreverent word about these two defining  poles of the new  “nationalism.”

Bulandshahr Violence

Think how democratic  voices have been routinely lambasted whenever a critical  opinion , however well- founded, has been expressed with respect to the conduct of the security forces in Kashmir.  The least sympathy expressed  with  a hounded and humiliated  Kashmiri, including  traumatized teenagers risking opposition to  strong-arm measures and gratuitous civilian killings  has quickly been dubbed as “anti-national” activity  engaged in by “urban naxals” to weaken the state.  However justified their resentment, protesting Kashmiris have been characterized as enemy mobs out to give a bad name to  the security forces.  Any  reference to possible causes for the  unrest has likewise been rubbished as a ploy to find excuses for  doing dirt on the forces heroically committed to  shore up the land.  And every tactic employed by the forces applauded as  above and beyond  faulting. The ultimate  act against  the  honour of the state has been seen to be the  standing upto jawans or policemen committing excesses, even as armed violence  committed by militants  Is justly  condemned.
So we may be excused if we have thus far assumed that the utmost test of our loyalty to the nation rests in how we look at our security forces. Wrong.

Switch to the recent violence in Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh and a different  order of priority  emerges. 

On a day when local Muslims were holding an Ijtima(a  Tablighi gathering), some carcasses, instantly  promulgated as those of   cows, were  found in an open field nearby.

Before you knew, a mob  of hundreds gathered on the spot, accused some Muslims of the heinous act, and lodged a  First Information Report.   

Just when the  local police were intending to bury the carcasses, some leaders of the mob belonging to  organizations affiliated to the Hindu rightwing prevented this from happening , and set about vandalizing whatever came in their  path.

Which is when  Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, deserted mysteriously by his support staff, including the driver of his police vehicle, was shot dead, ostensibly with his own service revolver.  His wireless equipment and mobile phones were taken away.  A second  F.I.R  came to be lodged in which one Yogesh  Raj , reportedly of the Bajrang Dal,  was  named as accused number one. 

You would have thought that the very first report of a security man being thus killed  would have brought the hyper-nationalist  Chief Minister of the state rushing to the spot, visiting the victims family,   flaunting “nationalist”  outrage, and ordering a prompt hunting down of t he treacherous  murderers.

Well, think again.  Not only did the redoubtable  scion of  militant-Hindutva   nationalism  continue to spend time watching a sound and light show in faraway Gorakhpur, followed by attending a Kabbadi match in another city,  but when he did speak to the murder of the police Inspector some three days after the event, called it an  “accident”  and not  a case of “mob lynching.”  A veritable  dog-whistle  to  those  entrusted with investigating the  murder ?

Both the local police high-ups who lost , by all accounts, an officer of high repute, and the Chief minister articulated the view that the important thing was to investigate the cow killings  rather than the lychings or the murder of t he officer; Intelligence  agencies came to suspect a  “deep conspiracy” in the matter. 

Conspiracy indeed,  said  the brother of the  slain  police officer, suggesting that whoever had killed the cow(s) and left the carcasses in an open field nearby on the very day that Muslims were holding a religious gathering had  clearly intended  the carcasses to to  be seen and found. An angry and tearful sister of the  slain officer asserted on television that her upright brother had been killed because he had been investigating the lynch-mob  murder of  Akhlaque (who, it will be recalled, was the first victim of  the post-2014 mob-lynching  phenomenon), and , according to her, had refused to  favour the accused in that  murder. Another  person, one Shikhar Agrawal, also named in the FIR,  told a Television Channel that the Inspector “had provoked the crowd.”  Agrawal is said to belong to he Bharatiya Yuva Morcha.

Both  Yogesh Raj and Shikhar Agrawal have been  circulating video-recorded statements  protesting their innocence, but the police is thus far either unwilling or unable to nab them.

Lesson:  if  the  goings-on in Kashmir   have brought home to us the “nationalist”   dictim that no dishonor to the nation exceeds that of dishonor to the security forces, Bulandshahr  has foregrounded  an alternate dictim:  ergo, a dead cow  clearly supercedes in” nationalist” import  a  murdered police officer.  Everything  depends, seemingly, on who does the killing.  When    harmed by protesting mobs in Kashmir, a security man comes to  symbolize  the ultimate call to “nationalist” sentiment; but  not when killed by a cow-vigilante lynch mob.  Clearly,  cows, we are now taught, have precedence over security forces as well.

Thus, caught  between the two, we must yet  again declare our true allegiance   between a security officer seeking to do his constitutional duty in ernest and a  lynch mob  sanctified above the Constitution by  its  holier commitment to the cow.

It will remain to be seen how the security forces view that  new pecking order.  Reports suggest  that that they are  dismayed and demoralized. Most security personnel might be excused for thinking that  It is one thing to be upbraided for sparing  an  “anti-Hindu,”  “anti-national”  “other”;  but quite another  to be actually executed  for letting cows  go  unavenged.

Young,  poltically disgruntled Kashmiris out protesting on the streets of t he valley are  thus “anti-national mobs”; but  culturally  disgruntled  murderers in Bulandshahr are not  lynch-mobs but holy warriors; and no security man may be allowed to stand against them.
We  live and learn.

Bulandshahr Mayhem Reveals a new Nationalist Pecking Order

If the  politics of the  Narendra Modi tenure in government has taught us anything, it is that two entities of our national life must always remain above and beyond slur, not to say  any active questioning; namely, the  security forces of t he realm and the cow. Indeed, even at the most liberal of forums it has been  gravely risky to  speak one irreverent word about these two defining  poles of the new  “nationalism.”

Bulandshahr Violence

Think how democratic  voices have been routinely lambasted whenever a critical  opinion , however well- founded, has been expressed with respect to the conduct of the security forces in Kashmir.  The least sympathy expressed  with  a hounded and humiliated  Kashmiri, including  traumatized teenagers risking opposition to  strong-arm measures and gratuitous civilian killings  has quickly been dubbed as “anti-national” activity  engaged in by “urban naxals” to weaken the state.  However justified their resentment, protesting Kashmiris have been characterized as enemy mobs out to give a bad name to  the security forces.  Any  reference to possible causes for the  unrest has likewise been rubbished as a ploy to find excuses for  doing dirt on the forces heroically committed to  shore up the land.  And every tactic employed by the forces applauded as  above and beyond  faulting. The ultimate  act against  the  honour of the state has been seen to be the  standing upto jawans or policemen committing excesses, even as armed violence  committed by militants  Is justly  condemned.
So we may be excused if we have thus far assumed that the utmost test of our loyalty to the nation rests in how we look at our security forces. Wrong.

Switch to the recent violence in Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh and a different  order of priority  emerges. 

On a day when local Muslims were holding an Ijtima(a  Tablighi gathering), some carcasses, instantly  promulgated as those of   cows, were  found in an open field nearby.

Before you knew, a mob  of hundreds gathered on the spot, accused some Muslims of the heinous act, and lodged a  First Information Report.   

Just when the  local police were intending to bury the carcasses, some leaders of the mob belonging to  organizations affiliated to the Hindu rightwing prevented this from happening , and set about vandalizing whatever came in their  path.

Which is when  Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, deserted mysteriously by his support staff, including the driver of his police vehicle, was shot dead, ostensibly with his own service revolver.  His wireless equipment and mobile phones were taken away.  A second  F.I.R  came to be lodged in which one Yogesh  Raj , reportedly of the Bajrang Dal,  was  named as accused number one. 

You would have thought that the very first report of a security man being thus killed  would have brought the hyper-nationalist  Chief Minister of the state rushing to the spot, visiting the victims family,   flaunting “nationalist”  outrage, and ordering a prompt hunting down of t he treacherous  murderers.

Well, think again.  Not only did the redoubtable  scion of  militant-Hindutva   nationalism  continue to spend time watching a sound and light show in faraway Gorakhpur, followed by attending a Kabbadi match in another city,  but when he did speak to the murder of the police Inspector some three days after the event, called it an  “accident”  and not  a case of “mob lynching.”  A veritable  dog-whistle  to  those  entrusted with investigating the  murder ?

Both the local police high-ups who lost , by all accounts, an officer of high repute, and the Chief minister articulated the view that the important thing was to investigate the cow killings  rather than the lychings or the murder of t he officer; Intelligence  agencies came to suspect a  “deep conspiracy” in the matter. 

Conspiracy indeed,  said  the brother of the  slain  police officer, suggesting that whoever had killed the cow(s) and left the carcasses in an open field nearby on the very day that Muslims were holding a religious gathering had  clearly intended  the carcasses to to  be seen and found. An angry and tearful sister of the  slain officer asserted on television that her upright brother had been killed because he had been investigating the lynch-mob  murder of  Akhlaque (who, it will be recalled, was the first victim of  the post-2014 mob-lynching  phenomenon), and , according to her, had refused to  favour the accused in that  murder. Another  person, one Shikhar Agrawal, also named in the FIR,  told a Television Channel that the Inspector “had provoked the crowd.”  Agrawal is said to belong to he Bharatiya Yuva Morcha.

Both  Yogesh Raj and Shikhar Agrawal have been  circulating video-recorded statements  protesting their innocence, but the police is thus far either unwilling or unable to nab them.

Lesson:  if  the  goings-on in Kashmir   have brought home to us the “nationalist”   dictim that no dishonor to the nation exceeds that of dishonor to the security forces, Bulandshahr  has foregrounded  an alternate dictim:  ergo, a dead cow  clearly supercedes in” nationalist” import  a  murdered police officer.  Everything  depends, seemingly, on who does the killing.  When    harmed by protesting mobs in Kashmir, a security man comes to  symbolize  the ultimate call to “nationalist” sentiment; but  not when killed by a cow-vigilante lynch mob.  Clearly,  cows, we are now taught, have precedence over security forces as well.

Thus, caught  between the two, we must yet  again declare our true allegiance   between a security officer seeking to do his constitutional duty in ernest and a  lynch mob  sanctified above the Constitution by  its  holier commitment to the cow.

It will remain to be seen how the security forces view that  new pecking order.  Reports suggest  that that they are  dismayed and demoralized. Most security personnel might be excused for thinking that  It is one thing to be upbraided for sparing  an  “anti-Hindu,”  “anti-national”  “other”;  but quite another  to be actually executed  for letting cows  go  unavenged.

Young,  poltically disgruntled Kashmiris out protesting on the streets of t he valley are  thus “anti-national mobs”; but  culturally  disgruntled  murderers in Bulandshahr are not  lynch-mobs but holy warriors; and no security man may be allowed to stand against them.
We  live and learn.

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