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The Bulandshahr Violence: Vigilantism Or Conspiracy?

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Bulandshahr, a town in the western Uttar Pradesh’s sugarcane belt, witnessed clashes between cow vigilantes and the state police on 3rd December 2018. The violence took new forms when a policeman investigating the Dadri lynching case was killed. “Conspiracy!” screamed the public. And the CBI set up a special investigation team to find out how a group of 20 angry vigilantes started a massive mob riot in Bulandshahr.

Meanwhile, we give you a rundown of the events that happened from the day of the violence.

Sequence Of Events

  • The activists found carcasses of cows strewn across a farm in Mahav village near Bulandshahr.
  • They carried the remains of the dead cows in tractor-trolleys and went to the nearby police sub-station in Chingravathi village to file an FIR against the alleged cow slaughter. They raised slogans against the police administration demanding actions against the culprits and blocked the Bulandshahr-Garh highway.
  • District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said police and senior officials tried to reason with the protestors but they refused to budge.
  • The group of activists soon expanded into a mop of angry miscreants. No one knows how, in so little time (just a few hours), did so many hundreds of people gather outside the police station. The 400-people strong mob was armed with axes and knives. 
  • Seeing as how the strength of people was increasing by the hour, the police at Chingravathi called for help from the neighbouring police station in Shyana village to disperse the mob.
  • By around 11 am skirmishes between the miscreants and the police started when the former attacked police personnel with stones and firearms. again, how did acquire these firearms so quickly is still a mystery.
  • The police opened fire at the mob in self-defense. A little after noon, when the violence was at its peak, an inspector-rank police officer, Subodh Kumar Singh succumbed to his own bullet injury, the post-mortem report confirmed. Singh was also part of the team that probed the 2015 Mohammad Akhlaq’s lynching in Dadri, UP.
  • The mob set the chowki on fire. And many other police vehicles were also torched.
  • Meanwhile, a few Hindu-right groups also blocked the highway passing through the Chingravati village.
  • While at least four other policemen were reportedly hurt, a 21-year-old boy – Sumit also died in the violence. Many in the area, when questioned, said that Sumit was a BJP activist and a part of the mob. On the other hand, some police reports claimed that he was only a bystander who got caught in the violence.
  • Incidentally, the uproar over cow slaughter has occurred at a time when lakhs of Muslims across India have gathered in Bulandshahr for Tablighi Jamaat’s Ijtema (religious gathering). And the attack on police happened around 30 kilometers away from the site of the ijtema.
  • By evening that day, the UP government deployed security forces in and around the town. Top police officials have been camping in Bulandshahr to prevent any further aggravation of the incident.
  • The police claimed that the situation was under control but appealed to the public to desist from spreading inflammatory rumours on social media. Of course, no one wants another WhatsApp lynching spree in the country.
  • Two FIRs have been filed. One against the unknown person for the alleged cow slaughter, and the other, against more than 100 people who attacked the police at the Chingravathi chowki.
  • A Special Investigation Team has been constituted to probe the matter. The police, meanwhile, arrested two people and detained four others in connection with the violence.
  • Police have detained two 10-year-old boys and accused them of being involved in the alleged illegal slaughtering of a cow. Family members of the two 10-year-olds blame right-wing Hindu organisations of dragging their children’s name.
  • These outfits are not even sparing kids to polarise society and create communal tensions in the region,” one of the family members said.
  • There are around 25 others who have been booked for violence. Four people have been arrested in the case so far. The key accused in the case-Yogesh Raj-is a Bajrang Dal leader and has been absconding.

On 17 December, 21-year-old Shrey Singh, the son of Subodh Kumar Singh went back to Bulandshahr to collect his father’s belongings. He was shocked to see his father’s body rife with slits and bruises. He said, 

“My father sustained 25 wounds from stone-pelting. He had a sharp knife wound on his back and an axe wound on his right hand. His right thumb had been cut off, which made him incapable of using his revolver in self-defence.”

He further remarked, “The first question that came to my mind was — among the police personnel at the station, how did only my father suffer injuries in the mob violence? I asked this question to the police officials and constables whom I met, but received no clear reply. I believe that those who planned this dastardly act have systematically destroyed evidence.”

Investigations are still ongoing to find out where did the 400-people mob come from, who were they affiliated to, their real agendas and the actual proceedings of the event. Meanwhile, a writ petition has been filed in the Allahabad High Court by Shikhar Agarwal aka Shikhar Kumar, an accused in the case. The petitioner contended that he was a medical student, alleging that instead of investigating the matter, the local policemen were harassing his family. The court fixed January 18, 2019, as the next date of hearing in the matter.

Demanding resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, 83 former civil servants have written an open letter criticizing the central and the state governments for their alleged failure in acting against the killers of a police officer. The letter states that instead of condemning the perpetrators of the violence, Adityanath has been asking the police to focus attention on those responsible for illegal cow slaughter.

A version of this article was originally published in The Wire.

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