ALIGARH: The recent happenings in several districts of the Uttar Pradesh, mainly falling in the volatile western part of the state, do not auger well for the law and order situation in this communally sensitive area of the country.

Every few a days, there is a report from some part or the other of western UP regarding incidents of crime and mob violence while the demoralized police force has been reduced to mere spectators.

The first major incident in this sequence in Western UP took place in Saharanpur city on April 20, when some senior BJP leaders humiliated the police chief of this district by going on a rampage inside his house and office complex compound on flimsy grounds. The city was then simmering with communal tension and the police somehow managed to salvage the situation despite the unceremonious treatment meted out to their chief.

Luv Kumar, the then SSP of Saharanpur is a soft spoken policeman known for his integrity and by subsequently shunting him from his post a week later, the state government has sent a not so subtle message to the police department – toe the line of our party cadres or be ready to pay the price.

The ensuing inter-caste violence between Dalits and upper caste in Saharanpur, which broke out on May 5 and continues to simmer till date, has no precedence in the state in recent years. The Dalits as well as Muslims in the state are in the grip of severe insecurity and are bracing themselves for more troubled times.

The happenings in Aligarh district during the past three weeks have confirmed that a demoralized police force will be in no position to confront law-breakers once the atmosphere is vitiated.

On May 11, a mob of Gau Rakshaks stormed into the premises of a private dairy owned by a certain Kalu Baghel after some bystanders saw some blood trickling out from under the gate of the dairy compound. When the mob barged into the dairy, they discovered that a buffalo had been illegally slaughtered inside the dairy compound and its carcass was lying in one corner of the dairy.

The animal had stopped yielding milk and almost all local slaughtering houses are still closed. The owner of the dairy struck a deal with a meat trader Imran to slaughter the buffalo within his own precincts. The ramifications of this incident are deep and long term. (Earlier, the dairy owners would sell off their non-productive buffaloes to meat traders. Now there appear to be hardly any option to dairy owners and farmers to find a viable and safe option to dispose their old animals.)

The mob immediately started thrashing the dairy owner and the group which had come to slaughter the animal and the situation would have taken a very ugly turn if the police had not arrived and managed to extricate them.

In the process some policemen were also thrashed but that is another story. Six persons including the dairy owner and Imran and his team were arrested. However, more than three weeks after the incident, not a single person from the attackers has been charged with the crime although the entire incident was captured on video and has been aired by a number of channels.

When contacted senior police officials told this writer that action will be initiated against the attackers if the victims file a complaint. It is obvious that the chapter has been closed because the victims are in no position even to whimper much less file a complaint with the police. They are happy just to be alive.

Not a single leader from any opposition party has the courage even to raise this matter with the authorities much less to protest against it. Reports of high handed behavior against senior police officials on some pretexts by ruling party cadres have also been received from several other districts too.

The fall out of this incident was that on May 14, a group of Gau Rakshaks blocked the way of three truckloads carrying buffaloes on the Khair Road under Police Station Lodha. One of the trucks, sensing trouble, managed to speed away. The other two truck weres however apprehended along with 21 buffaloes which they were carrying. While trying to speed away, the third truck driver narrowly missed crashing the Gau Rakshaks who were trying to block his way. Had any untoward incident occurred, the situation would have certainly gone out of hand.

A case was registered under the Animal Cruelty Act against the two arrested truck drivers and the police is on the lookout for the third.

According to Tariq Anwar, President of the Aligarh District Meat Trader Association, the recent incidents in Aligarh are not isolated ones, but similar happenings are taking place everyday all over the state. He pointed out that an important factor behind this state of affair is that there is not a single city in the state where the official mechanized abattoirs of different municipal corporations is functional. Thousands have been rendered jobless in the state and whatever buffalo meat is available is through illegal slaughtering on the sly. These jobless elements are now getting restless and hence are always ready to take up an assignment, provided the fee is adequate.

The situation has been compounded by the fact that no suitable mechanism has been evolved for ensuring that buffaloes are transported legally and safely keeping in mind the fact that Gau Rakshaks are maintain a strict vigil on transport of all livestock.

Most transport companies and rivals are reluctant to take up assignments which could even cost them their lives. Aligarh is the biggest centre for meat export units in Uttar Pradesh and each day, more than 750 tons of buffalo meat is made available from different factories in the city.

Since the past two months, these export units are running barely on one third of their rated capacities because of shortage of livestock.

Meat trader, Anwar said that this entire problem could have been prevented if the Yogi government of UP had given a time margin of about six months for setting up legalized abattoirs both in the private and public sector.

On May 19, communal tension erupted when a Hindu shopkeeper adjoining a mosque situated at Phool Chowk in the heart of the old city objected to some repair work being carried out in the mosque. The shopkeeper charged the Mosque Committee of raising the Mosque minaret without obtaining official permission. The matter appeared to have been resolved when members of both the community agreed to reduce the size of the minarets to original dimensions.

Senior BJP leaders of the town rushed to the town and by that time a wild rumour spread in the area that the mosque has been demolished. For nearly half an hour, rival groups exchanged brickbats and had not the police acted with tact and firmness, the situation could have gone out of hand.

Three days later, another confrontation took place in Lariya locality in the old City. This time, it was caused by a minor roadside tiff between a motorcyclist and a pedestrian. This trouble was also nipped in the bud.

The fact is that ever since the Yogi government came into power, communal passions are being stoked intermittently and, though, no major Hindu-Muslim riot has taken place till now, even a small incident could lead to a major communal flair up in the state.

Any visit to the countryside in the state would confirm that the fall out of November’s demonetization is fully beginning to manifest itself in rural areas of the state. Contrary to official claims, banks and ATMs in most rural parts of the state are still suffering from cash shortages leading to gradual erosion in all agro-based trades.

Rural distress is leading to an alarming rise in rural joblessness. The entire animal husbandry business connected to the bovine livestock is under severe stress and if the government does not come up with a viable solution to these sensitive issues linked with cattle trade, the ramifications will assume menacing proportions within a few months.

Joblessness, fear and communal hatred form a lethal mixture. UP is clearly on the brink.

(Tariq Hasan is a senior journalist and author)