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Criminal mindsets

Encounter killings will hardly be able to decriminalise UP if the chief minister continues to extricate the BJP’s own legislators accused of crimes as heinous as rape and murder

The BJP-government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh seems to have been caught into its own web. Taking in turncoats having criminal antecedents and questionable loyalty and giving protection to its own party leaders on criminal cases have cast a shadow on its political image.

Notwithstanding the ‘encounter spree’ to contain crime in the state, its own lawmakers are blatantly taking the law into their hands. On top of that, the Yogi Adityanath government is ‘shamelessly’ giving them protection. The recent case in point is the Unnao rape and murder.

An 18-year-old girl from Makhi village in Unnao district, seeking a job, was allegedly held captive by the BJP MLA from Bangermau in Unnao Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his brother. She was alleged to have been raped for eight days by them. The victim, somehow, managed to slip out of captivity and narrated the incident to her father Surendra Singh alias Pappu.

The ordeal continued when the rape victim’s father attempted to lodge an FIR against the BJP MLA and his brother Atul Singh alias Jaideep Singh. They were thrown out of the Makhi Police Station in Unnao. They approached the court and managed to get a case registered against the accused, braving life threats.

Despite the court case, the Unnao police took no action against the accused. The rape victim and her family met the Chief Minister Yogi Aditayanth last year with their complaint but no action followed. The victim’s family was under continuous pressure to withdraw the court case or face consequences.

On April 3, Atul Singh barged into Surendra Singh’s house with four others. They dragged him out at gunpoint and tied Surendra to a tree. They punched him, thrashed him with sticks, belts and iron rods before his family and villagers till he fell unconscious. Surendra’s wife Asha lodged a complaint with Makhi Police station but instead of arresting the accused, her injured husband was put behind bars.

Asha claims that the MLA’s brother was shouting that her husband would be killed if he did not withdraw the case. The family feared he might be eliminated in jail. After their requests for his release and treatment were ignored by senior Unnao police officials, the family rushed to the state capital Lucknow again on April 8 to either get justice from the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath or commit suicide.

Once they came to know that the CM was out of Lucknow, the rape victim made an abortive bid to commit suicide along with family outside CM’s House at Kalidas Marg. Their act caught media attention. The story of their ordeal for the past one year was playing on TV channels within hours.

Since the incident occurred at high-security CM’s house and media spilled the beans, senior police officials scurried for cover, assuring fresh probe and action to keep the family out of the media glare. The administration thought they would manage the incident the way they managed another suicide bid  attempted by a rape victim from Barabanki outside CM’s house a week ago.

The Barabanki Police had given a clean chit to the influential accused, who is close to the ruling coalition. Ironically, Yogi Adityanath did not take cognisance of both incidents occurring outside his official residence.

But hell broke out on the morning of April 9 when the rape victim’s father succumbed to internal injuries in police custody at Unnao District Hospital. The CM quickly ordered a magisterial inquiry and assured action against the guilty. A special Investigation Team (SIT) was also formed to probe the rape and murder charges.

An FIR was also finally lodged but only after dropping the name of the BJP MLA’s brother. Four accomplices of the BJP MLA were arrested the same day. But no action followed against the accused MLA and his brother.

The erring BJP MLA Kuldeesp Singh Sengar rushed to meet the CM to offer explanation but a crestfallen Yogi Adityanath refused to meet him. When pressure was mounted by the opposition parties and media, the BJP MLA’s brother Atul Singh was arrested on April 10.

Till now, the police had no evidence to initiate action against the MLA’s brother but suddenly it found clinching evidence against Atul SIngh. It speaks volumes about how leaders close to the ruling coalition are protected in Yogi Adityanath’s regime despite criminal activities.

The autopsy report suggests that the rape victim’s father died of shock and septicemia due to severe internal hemorrhage and damage to intestines. His body bore 16 external injury marks, clearly suggesting third degree torture and brutal beating by the MLA’s brother and four others.

The entire village had witnessed brutalities perpetuated by the BJP MLA and his men on the deceased on April 3. The question then arises why no FIR was registered against them despite a hand-written complaint submitted by the deceased’s wife Asha. When it was finally lodged after media pressure, why was Atul Singh’s name dropped? Moreover, why was the BJP MLA arrested when his name was not there in the FIR?

The more one digs, the more skeletons come out of Yogi Adityanath’s administration. Was the brother arrested to save the accused BJP MLA? The deceased’s family, the AICC President Rahul Gandhi and the Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav have also sought an explanation from the CM on this count.

“They are shielding the BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Segar. He raped my daughter and killed my husband. We demand a CBI inquiry and his immediate arrest or else we will hold a fast unto death at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to seek justice from Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Asha has warned.

Asha’s demand is justified. How would one believe Yogi Adityanath will initiate action against his own MLA when he himself withdrew cases against him, Union Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla and scores of other leaders in one year of his regime?

It all started with the Saharanpur riot last year, when BJP MP Raghav Lakhan Pal barged into then SSP Luv Kumar’s bungalow and troubled the senior IPS officer’s family for two hours. Instead of any action against the erring party MP, the SSP was shunted out.

Bhim Sena chief Chandrasekar Ravana is still languishing in jail but no action was taken against Thakurs involved in torching Dalit houses and those killing Dalits during the Saharanpur riots.

In February, the CM ordered that legal proceedings be begun to withdraw cases against former Union minister and BJP MP Sanjeev Balyan and other BJP MLAs in connection with Muzaffarnagar riots in which 62 people were killed.

On CM’s direction, the state’s Law Department had shot off a letter to the Shahjahanpur District Magistrate to withdraw rape case against former Union minister of state for home Swami Chinmayanand in March. Recently, it has sent a letter to Agra’s District Magistrate seeking his opinion on withdrawing as many as 16 cases pending against Dr Ram Shankar Katheria, the Chairman of SC/ST Commission.

When lawmakers are given such blatant political immunity to get away with any crime they commit by the Yogi Adityanath regime, how can he justify shooting down 45 hardcore criminals in over 1,150 encounters in the state in the last year? Despite his tall claims, Uttar Pradesh continues to top in cases of rape, murder and atrocities against women and Dalits in the vountry.

When a person from his hometown Gorakhpur met him recently during his ‘Janata Darbar’ with a complaint against an independent MLA Amanmani Tripathi, facing CBI probe in his wife’s murder, the CM asked his security men to throw him out. A video containing his grievance had gone viral in social media but Yogi refused to help the man, preferring to favour the criminal MLA who supported the BJP in Rajya Sabha polls.

In another incident, the CM refused to initiate any action in a complaint against the BJP MP from Bansgaon Kamlesh Paswan in a land grabbing case. Later, a case was registered following court intervention.

There is also another angle to the Unnao rape and murder. Besides a few party ministers and leaders, the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seems to be facing  a challenge from unknown quarters. Those who in the past dared him with political revolt or criminal acts are being given a place and tickets in the BJP by the party leadership.

Be it Dalit BJP MPs — Savitri Bai Phule, Ashok Dohre, Chhote Lal Kharwar, Dr Yashwant Singh — or party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, they all are turncoats joining the BJP for tickets just before the 2017 Assembly elections or the forthcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a four-time MLA from Unnao, was first elected on the BSP ticket in 2002. When denied a ticket by that party, he joined the Samajwadi Party to win again in 2007 and 2012. Fearing that he may lose his ticket, he switched over to the BJP to win from Bangermau in 2017.

Both Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his brother Atul Singh have a long criminal past. He and his brother were involved in firing a shot at then ADM Ram Lal Verma when police officers tried to stop illegal mining done by his men in the area in 2004.

Known to belong to the tender and mining mafia, Sengar and his brother never allow anyone else to take any government contract in his Assembly constituency. His companies are involved in illegal mining, real estate, road construction and supply of building material.

“That’s the difference between him and Mayawati. She had got a BSP MP Uma Kant Yadav arrested from her residence when she was the CM, while Yogi Adityanath is shielding his own party leaders. How will he make Uttar Pradesh crime-free?” quips Afsar Husain, a senior journalist.