The Hathras horror has once again turned the spotlight on the dismal track record of Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh to control crime, especially crimes against women.

Yogi Adityanath had declared a zero-tolerance policy with regard to crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh immediately after taking charge in 2017. But the ground reality is something totally different. The Yogi government has not only miserably failed to control crime, it seems to have given a license to its sympathizers to rape, kill, and harass women with impunity.

This is borne out by data released by none other than the Chief Minister himself, who also holds the home portfolio. In a written answer to the state assembly on March 13, 2018, the UP government admitted that during the first nine months of its rule, there was an increase of 33 percent in crimes against women, corresponding to the same period during the Samajwadi Party government in 2016-17.

According to figures released by the UP government, during April 2016- January 31, 2017, a total of 2943 rape cases were registered, which went up to 3704 during April 2017- January 31, 2018, an increase of 26 percent.

Cases of assault with intent to outrage the modesty of a woman went up from 8159 during 2016-17 to 11,404 during 2017-18, an increase of 40 percent.

Kidnappings increased from 9828 to 13,226, an increase of 35 percent.

Harassment cases went up from 495 in 2016-17 to 987 during 2017-18, a whopping increase of 99 percent.

Cases of cruelty by husbands/relatives went up from 10,219 to 13,392 during 2017-18, an increase of 31 percent.

Overall, crimes against women went up by 33 percent as opposed to the same corresponding period during Samajwadi Party rule.

This is ironical because the BJP government had come riding on a wave of hostility against the Samajwadi Party government in UP, following the brutal rape and murder of two sisters in Badaun. The case had become symptomatic of the SP’s ‘goonda raj’ as BJP leaders spared no opportunity to criticize the Samajwadi Party for its dismal track record on governance.

The first thing Yogi Adityanath did after assuming power was to announce an anti- Romeo Squad, a special force, to instill fear among anti social elements and provide security to women. It is another matter, however, that this force degenerated into an instrument of oppression targeting innocent couples simply enjoying themselves in parks/other public spaces. Soon, the anti-Romeo squad faded into oblivion.

Incidents of rape and murder of women have continued to be reported from the state with disturbing frequency. What, however, is shocking is that the government is seen to be lax in taking action against those enjoying proximity to the BJP.

The Hathras incident, in which a Dalit girl was raped and tortured to death, and her body burnt forcibly in the dead of night even as her parents kept pleading with the police to hand over the body so that they could perform her last rites, has shocked the collective conscience of all right thinking people in the country.

Here too, reports indicate, the reason why the government first dithered in taking action against the accused, and then showing surprising alacrity in disposing off her body, is because one of the accused is reportedly the son of a local BJP neta enjoying proximity with senior BJP leaders. His pictures with the prime minister, defence minister and chief minister have been trending on social media sites.

It is pertinent to recall two cases in 2018-19, involving BJP netas, which grabbed media headlines in the country. The first case was of BJP MLA from Unnao, Kuldeep Sengar, who was accused by a 17-year old girl of having raped her in June 2017. For nine months, the UP police did not register her complaint.

The MLA and his goons, meanwhile, kept harassing her family members. Her father and uncle were arrested on false charges. The father was brutally beaten up in police custody and died. Exasperated, she, along with her mother, threatened self-immolation in front of the chief minister’s residence in Lucknow in April 2018.

It was only then that a case was registered but the MLA’s name was not mentioned, neither any action taken against him.

In July 2019, while the girl was going to a court in Raebareli, along with her mother, two aunts and her lawyer, to depose in the case, her car was rammed by a truck in which both her aunts died and she and her mother sustained serious injuries. She was airlifted to Delhi from Lucknow after her condition became critical. The media uproar finally forced the Supreme Court to intervene, order a CBI enquiry and then only the MLA was arrested. He has now been convicted both for rape of the girl and murder of her father.

The other case, which also grabbed the headlines, involved another senior BJP leader Chinmayanand, who was a Union Minister in the Vajpayee government and runs ashrams in Shahjahanpur, Haridwar and Rishikesh. He was accused of rape for over a year by a law student in August 2019 but the government refused to take any action in the matter.

In this case too, the Supreme Court had to intervene, then only the state ordered an SIT, a case was filed against him in September 2019 and he was arrested on September 20, 2019. But intriguingly enough, the law student too was arrested five days later for hatching a conspiracy to extort Rs five crore from Chinmayanad.

Chinmayanand, who enjoyed proximity with Yogi Adityanath, has confessed to his crimes, but he has been charged not with rape but “ sexual intercourse not amounting to rape” and misusing his official position to seek sexual favours. He continues to be in a Lucknow hospital, on health grounds.

This sorry state of affairs, as far as women’s safety goes, has become routine in Uttar Pradesh. The police and administration, in case after case, have come across as an insensitive bunch of hoodlums, caring two hoots for either decency or propriety. Can anyone forget the visuals of that police officer in Hathras with a wicked grin on his face as the girl’s body burnt in the dead of night in the background?

Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2018 in January this year also showed that Uttar Pradesh has recorded a shocking increase of 20% in crimes against women from 2016 to 2019.

The NCRB data has marked Uttar Pradesh as the most unsafe state for women. According to its 2017 report, which was released after a delay of more than one and a half years, 56,011 cases of crime against women were reported while the number surged to 59,445 for the year 2018. What is shocking is the fact that the number has been increasing over the years: 35,908 cases were registered in 2015 and 49,262 in 2016. Uttar Pradesh remains at the top with 15.7% cases.

As far as cases of rape are concerned, Uttar Pradesh comes a close second to Madhya Pradesh. In 2018, 3,946 rape cases were registered in UP involving 4,322 victims, including 1,411 minors. The state in 2017 had reported 4,246 rape cases, again second highest in the country after Madhya Pradesh, in which victims were minor in almost 1560 cases. As many as 5401 cases under POCSO were registered in 2018. Of the total cases, 2,444 are of dowry deaths, 14,233 of domestic violence and 15,381 kidnappings.

Another shocking revelation from the NCRB data from Uttar Pradesh showed a tremendous jump of close to 27.9% in crimes against those belonging to the Scheduled Castes in 2017.

The brutal rape and murder of the Dalit girl from Hathras, which has shaken the conscience of entire country in the last few days, seems just another data in a state where such atrocities have become frequent.

Yet another shocking incident came to light from Unnao in December 2019 when a rape survivor was burnt alive by the accused who were out on bail. The girl was on her way to depose in the rape case when she was burnt. She ran for a kilometer while still burning, before collapsing on the road . She was brought to Safdarjung hospital in Delhi, where she later died.

And even as the flames of the Hathras victim were raging, yet another girl from Balrampur, yet again a Dalit, was raped and killed on the same day. Aged 22 years, the girl died on the same day in Balrampur district after being allegedly sexually assaulted by two men.

Another minor girl, only 14-years of age, is undergoing treatment at a hospital following rape by her 20-year-old neighbour in Bulandshahr.

On August 15, the mutilated body of a 13-year old girl was found in a sugarcane field In Lakhimpur Kheri. She was raped and killed. The father of the girl alleged that the rapist while killing her daughter also gouged her eyes and slit her tongue. The criminal even dragged the girl by putting a rope around her neck. The girl was reported missing from August 14 afternoon. Police claim to have arrested two people, who they say, have confessed to their crime.

On the same day in the Chief Minister’s home town Gorakhpur, another teenaged girl was raped and left unconscious in the Gola area of Gorakhpur district. The girl is undergoing treatment at the district hospital. She had left home to fetch water from a hand pump when she was forcibly taken to a hut and raped. She was also tortured by inflicting burn injuries with cigarette butts.

On August 19 the burnt body of a 17 year old girl, missing since August 17 from Bhadohi was found with her face and upper portion of the body disfigured with acid to hide her identity. In Uttar Pradesh, it seems, criminals seem to have no fear of the law.

On August 10, in Bulandshahr , Sudeeksha Bhati, a district topper studying in Babson College in Massachusetts, lost her life in an ‘accident’ that happened because of eve-teasers while she was on her way to Bulandshahr on the pillion of a motorcycle.

Similarly, on August 6, in Hapur a six-year-old girl was kidnapped when she was playing outside her house in Garhmukteshwar Kotwali area of the town. The kidnapper raped the minor girl, mutilated her private parts, dumped her in a field near the village and escaped. She was found 12 hours later. Her condition continues to be critical.

The National Commission for Women data also shows that a whopping majority, nearly 60 per cent, of complaints which reached the NCW from aggrieved women were from Uttar Pradesh.

Of the 19,279 complaints that the NCW registered in the last financial year, 11,287 were from UP alone. Last year, the total number of complaints from the state stood at 8,454 (55 per cent of the total complaints). The other states from where significant number of women approached the NCW also included Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar and Punjab.

Crimes against women, especially rape, say social scientists, are not only a law and order problem, but also a reflection of the mindset of a rotting patriarchal system which treats women as commodities. This rotten mindset has somehow mutated to monstrous proportions, so much so that state institutions seem to be completely indifferent to the sufferings being perpetrated by the so called powerful people on the hapless poor.

Rape as assertion of power seems to be the rule in UP, which the ascetic yogi has failed to tackle. No wonder, high sounding mission mode programmes started by him have failed to yield the desired results. In Lucknow, for example, Operation Shakti, where women police officers are tasked with checking crimes against women, are underway but their efficacy is suspect.

Now the chief minister has announced Mission Durachari, which is naming and shaming offenders and putting up their posters at different prominent places. But unless the fear of the police is instilled in the minds of criminals, and punishment is swift and exemplary, nothing will work.