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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2611

Nithari skeletons

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

Every time a big tragedy strikes the country, either manmade or natural, politics in India take a further dive towards its nadir. The victims are important only for the furtherance of political motives—and, of course, for the ‘photo op’ and ‘sound byte’ opportunities that they offer to some. Thus, while the full scale of the unspeakably gruesome saga from the village Nithari on the outskirts of Noida (UP) in the proximity of Delhi was still being unfolded, politicians had taken up their sparring positions.

The number of victims—mostly children and young women—was not known when politicians were rushing to the arena to knock down their opponents. All that was known was that the police had recovered about 20 skeletal remains from a drain outside the house of the prime suspect, Moninder Singh Pandher, who was arrested along with his domestic help, Surendra. The two men were not only accused of a heinous crime but some medical experts also thought they killed for the sake of supplying organs in the black market. It could not have been more pervert.

The merry go round of allegations and counter allegations was in full swing soon after the tragedy became known. The Opposition parties in UP, a state that goes to the polls in a few months time, went after the Samajwadi Party government headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav whose rustic politics thrill the Left and no one else. There was competition in the Opposition camp with the BJP, as is its wont, demanding instant resignation of the chief minister and the sacking of the state government. It served an ‘ultimatum’ that a CBI probe be ordered within 48 hours or else….

The Congress, ruling at the Centre as head of the UPA, also wanted a CBI probe but was in no position to take any action against the already discredited UP government for fear that such an action might suddenly give an unexpected advantage to the Samajwadi Party, handing it the halo of ‘martyrdom’.

Governor T Rajeswar too got involved in the act, recommending a CBI inquiry much against the wishes of the state government which has predictably asked its police to look into the Nithari massacre. That the Governor and the chief minister do not get along is no secret in Lucknow and Delhi. On its part, the Centre did appoint a ‘high-level’ committee that will probe the tragedy and even suggest ways to avert it in future.

The mud-slinging game will overshadow the Nithari tragedy in the coming months as the ‘D day’ for the state assembly polls draws near. No need to guess that Nithari is going to be one of the most common themes in the poll campaign, whether or not the guilty—in this case the police too should be seen as guilty—are punished. The families of the victims may not see the guilty brought to justice but they can certainly expect oceans of sympathy and a flood of crocodile tears from politicians.

In this game of one-upmanship among politicians no sense of proportion need be observed. Shiv Pal Singh Yadav, a brother of the UP chief minister and a minister in the state, dismissed the Nithari massacre as ‘routine’. He should have been telling his chief minister brother that he was wasting time and money by ordering a probe into a ‘routine’ tragedy. After all, people in India do believe in their ‘karma’ which ordains their destiny and life. By the extension of the logic used by the chief minister’s brother, a handful of children and women being criminally assaulted and brutally murdered was almost an everyday ‘routine’ and, hence, not deserving of either the public outrage that followed it or the probes ordered by the administration.

Not to be outdone, the big brother, that is the chief minister, claimed that UP was some kind of a sanctuary of peace in an area surrounded by lawlessness. Reacting to the BJP taunts about UP being a ‘jungle of lawlessness’, he called himself ‘the king of the jungle (lion)’ as he dished out figures to claim that UP witnessed far less murders under his regime than it did when it was ruled by the BJP. Why, the most dangerous place in his neighbourhood, going by the figures released by Mulayam Singh Yadav, is the national capital, Delhi.

All the hapless and helpless citizens in Delhi better rush to UP! The rush, however, cannot begin as long as the public perception, based on first hand experience and accounts heard from friends and relatives, about the ‘actual’ state of law and order in UP does not change for the better. The mere mention of the names of some party colleagues of the chief minister sends shivers down the spine of ordinary citizens, more so when such persons are seen masquerading as ‘respectful’ and ‘responsible’ ministers and party functionaries. But Mulayam Singh need not protest. Such elements do exist in the other camps too.

The ‘lion’ in UP having roared at his adversaries, Mulayam Singh must have been patting himself for cutting his ‘enemies’ to size with the help of fudged or twisted figures and political sophistry. But even in that state of elation it is doubtful if the chief minister and his minister brother turned their attention to some ‘non-routine’ affairs such as governance.

If they do believe in good governance they would have known that the butchery at Nithari might have been either averted or at least minimised had the government paid some attention to the law and order situation and the way the police functions—rather not functions. It has been reported that in the last two years at least 38 children had disappeared from the Nithari village and the police did not deem it fit to probe these cases. Surely, the police would not have been surprised, much less moved, by the discovery of so many skeletons near the Noida bungalow of Pandher.

Of course, the police do not easily get ‘moved’ no matter how big a tragedy is. Emotions can hinder the work of a police force. Surely it is a dehumanised act when the police maintain indifference over the disappearance of not one or two but scores of children from one village or area for almost two years. All those ‘high level’ probes and inquiries would have been unnecessary had the police been doing its basic job, which is to attend to complaints from citizens.

- Syndicate Features -

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