A horrifying crime was committed in Hathras district last month. It may or may not have been rape, but it was undoubtedly murder. Instead of focusing on the case in hand, Uttar Pradesh’s law enforcement authorities are busy looking into the ‘larger conspiracy’ behind the widespread protests against the incident. Seeking political credibility, rather than curbing crime, is their avowed priority, but it’s merely a fig leaf to evade scrutiny or cover up their complicity. The UP Government is keen on a CBI probe into the matter, not due to lack of faith in its own much-maligned police, but because it doesn’t want ‘vested interests to create a false narrative with oblique motives’. No wonder the government has also sought a CBI inquiry into the FIR related to the alleged criminal conspiracy to ‘spread caste conflict and instigate violence.’
There is nothing conspiratorial about the fact that UP reported the most number of cases of crimes against women in 2019, as per a report of the National Crime Records Bureau. The state also recorded the highest number of crimes against girls under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act last year. With such an abysmal record, the state authorities ought to go after the criminals, not the protesters. Nevertheless, dubbing the Hathras protests as a move to destabilise the Yogi Adityanath government, the police have launched a crackdown reminiscent of the ruthless methods used to quell the anti-CAA agitation in December last year. The attempt to connect the two disparate protests is another diversionary tactic.
Criminalisation of dissent is what governments are resorting to whenever they find themselves in a tight spot. But the ploy of blaming it all on the Opposition and unleashing probe agencies on political rivals is too predictable to be credible. The Hathras aftermath demonstrates the insecurity and incompetence of the state government. The Centre, whose own credibility is under a cloud, can remain a mute spectator to the goings-on only at its own peril.