Dear Yogi Adityanath Ji,
When you became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in March 2017, I likened it to Confucius coming to power in China in 500 BC. You also came close to Plato’s concept of the philosopher king, although the experiment of religious leaders holding political power was never a success anywhere in the world.
In roughly four years, Confucius learnt that the kind of statecraft he wanted to pursue was not possible and he quit the job and took to the road attracting thousands of followers. By the way, in March next, you will be completing four years of your tryst with UP’s destiny.
Unlike the Great Teacher in China, who got disillusioned with politics, you seem to have been consolidating your power in the state and the ruling BJP. Many hardliners in the party consider you as the natural successor to Narendra Modi who, they think, is increasingly losing his appeal.
Why they consider you the natural successor is because you are ruthless in implementing Hindutva. The whole world saw how you used the government machinery to deal with the public’s protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act that sought to drive the Muslims to a corner and make them feel inferior to the majority community.
How focused you could be was evident when you hounded a doctor, who happened to be a Muslim and who tried to save the lives of innocent babies at a government hospital at Gorakhpur I had the privilege of visiting soon after the incident. Elsewhere in the world, Dr Kafeel Khan would have been the toast of the state!
My intention is not to review everything that happened in Uttar Pradesh since you came to power in Lucknow. Let me confine myself to the “gang-rape” and murder of a Dalit girl at Hathras in Western UP. True, this is not the first such case in the state or the country.
It is also a fact that Dalit women are the worst victims of the social order that allows such incidents. It is also true that national outrage is seldom aroused in cases where the victims are the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.
The Nirbhaya case is not comparable, as it happened in the national Capital and the people who control the levers of political and social power could easily identify themselves with the girl who was one of their own.
Yet, if Harhras shook the conscience of the nation, it is because of the way your administration reacted to it. The girl’s family has mentioned that she was being harassed by the boys concerned and their attempts to file an FIR against them were in vain.
If Kerala is just behind UP in terms of violence against women, it is because the people of Kerala are educationally advanced and they know how to register police complaints.
In fact, when anyone says that Kerala leads in crime rate, I am proud because it is a measure of the success of not just policing but also the people’s consciousness about their rights and privileges.
That is, unfortunately, not the case in UP villages where filing an FIR is almost impossible, particularly when it is against those controlling the levers of power. Also, police officers want to keep the crime figures artificially low to earn a good certificate from their bosses who used the same strategy to reach where they are.
Had the police taken summary action against the delinquent men, the girl would have been alive today and radiating her smile in the village where she lived.
When on September 14, she was gang-raped and left to die with many of her vital organs damaged because of torture and asphyxiation, there was considerable delay in providing her necessary medical care.
Finally, she had to be shifted to the national Capital where the doctors could not save her as life had almost ebbed out of her by the time they began treating her. In any civilised society, the body would have been taken to her house at Hathras, where the parents would have the satisfaction of seeing “her” for the last time.
A parting kiss is the privilege of the parents and siblings in any society. All religions are one when it comes to treating the body with dignity. Even if the body is that of a dreaded dacoit, it is given a funeral, according to the religious custom of the person concerned.
That is why when a body is taken for cremation or burial, motorists on the way let the body pass without any hindrance. In fact, many Hindus utter the name “Ram, Ram” when they see a funeral procession, no matter whether it is Hindu or Christian or Muslim.
In a way, it is also a recognition that everyone, you and me included, would one day end up as just a body to be buried or cremated or given to the vultures. Yet, why was the body “cremated” around 2 am? Actually, I should not have used the word “cremated” as what happened was not cremation.
As you are a religious person, you know fully well how a Hindu body should be cremated. Or, did your administration think that she was not twice-born and, therefore, not entitled to an elaborate funeral?
There are certain rituals to be followed so that the departed soul can rest in peace. That is why customs insist that only blood relations can lit the funeral pyre.
The person lighting the pyre has to make a certain number of rounds of the pyre. In no case can the body be cremated or buried at dead of night. In fact, all undertakers - Christian, Muslim or Hindu - have to strictly follow the rule that no funeral can be done after sunset.
In the case of the poor girl, the police burnt the body using petrol. Under what law of the land was this allowed? Would the heavens have fallen if the body was taken to the village where the parents could have performed the last rites and the people could have paid their respects to the body.
You have blamed the district administration for the lapses. In these days of high technology, it is unbelievable that the District Magistrate could have acted on his own without consulting Lucknow. Now, what did the DM do?
This gentleman threatened the parents of the girl that they would face dire consequences if they talked to the media or any visiting political leaders. They were, in fact, kept incommunicado. I do not know who in the IAS Academy at Mussoorie taught him this. Would he have dared to do so if the victim was an upper caste girl?
Worse, he blocked all the roads to the village as if there was a nuclear bomb which would explode there. I saw one picture of the police bandobast. It was as if Hathras had suddenly become the India-China border!
If political leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi wanted to meet the girl’s parents, what prevented the police from honouring their request. Instead, a police officer had the temerity to push Rahul Gandhi down. Another had the monstrosity to pull at Priyanka’s dress. It is your leadership that provided them the courage to do so.
I remember the late Arun Jaitley air-dashing to Thiruvanthapuram to console the parents of an RSS worker, who was killed in an internecine clash. Did the Kerala Police stand in the way of his visit? Why are the police under you different from the police under Pinarayi Vijayan?
They did all this in the belief that they had your support. How else could the same DM have ordered banning of the Muslim call for prayer on the specious plea that it violated the Covid protocol. Finally, the people had to seek a judicial remedy. It showed his mindset.
Reports have come that there was no proof of rape in the post-mortem. Because the police have burnt the body, another post-mortem is not possible. In retrospect, was not the burning of the body intended to burn evidence?
Leaders belonging to your party like the former MLA of the constituency have come out with statements suggesting that the parents were lying when they said that she was raped and killed.
I was shocked when you ordered polygraph and narco analysis tests on the family of the victim. I wish you knew that such tests could be conducted only under certain guidelines issued by the apex court.
Also, the results of polygraph tests are not conclusive evidence in a court of law. Forget the scientific nature of the tests which are questionable, just imagine how humiliating it will be for the parents who lost their daughter that they will have to undergo such a test.
True, you ordered such tests on the accused also. The Constitution guarantees equality but equality, as defined by the drafters of the Constitution, does not mean that the victim and the oppressor should be treated equally.
Since you are a yogi, you may not have experienced the joy or pain a parent feels when his son or daughter achieves or loses something in life. Alternatively, one needs compassion to know how the parents would feel when they lose their precious child at the hands of a group of rapists.
I am not surprised that you have washed your hands of Hathras by handing over the case to the CBI. Given the way the CBI investigated the Ayodhya case over 28 years resulting in the exoneration of everyone who planned and destroyed the Babri Masjid, the name CBI no longer inspires confidence.
I do not find much difference between the UP Police and the CBI. The police in India have since time immemorial existed solely to protect the interests of those in power. I am pretty sure what its investigation will lead to.
I am sorry the letter has already become long. Let me now conclude with a reference to Confucius whom I mentioned at the beginning.
In his work Analects, Confucius answers the questions of his disciple:
Disciple: “What must an official be like to be considered distinguished?”
Master: “What do you mean by distinguished?”
Disciple: “Being always famous in a state, or always famous in a noble house”.
Master: “That is fame, not distinction. A distinguished man is one who is upright in substance and loves righteousness, who examines people’s words and observes their facial expressions, and who is anxious to remain humble to others. Such a man is always distinguished in a state and always distinguished in a noble house. A famous man is one who, in appearance, upholds humanity but in action, departs from it and who, nonetheless, arrogates it without scruples.”
When the disciple asked about humanity, the Master said: “Loving men”.
When asked about wisdom, the Master said, “Knowing men”.
The disciple did not quite understand. The Master said: “Promote the upright, place them above the crooked, and you shall make the crooked upright”.
Yogi Adityanath Ji, I wish you were like Confucius and not like what most people perceive you to be: A prisoner of Hindutva who cannot see all fellow citizens worthy of enjoying equality, liberty and fraternity.