June 06, 2016

India: Political patronage behind the fire - Editorial in The Tribune on the Violence in Mathura

The Tribune, June 6, 2016


Why Mathura erupted: Political patronage behind the fire

What happened at Mathura last week was the result of political patronage of a self-appointed guru who was allowed to occupy government land, raise a private army and gather deadly arms and ammunition right under the nose of the administration. The takeover of the 260-acre government park was not done in one day. It took two years and none interfered till the court forced the eviction. Illegalities such as this cannot happen without the knowledge and tacit approval of the administration. Two weeks ago the civic authorities had cut off electricity and water supply to the park, but it was restored in 12 hours. Local residents had complained about excesses by the illegal occupants. Police officers are quoted in media reports as saying that whenever they wanted to act, a call from Lucknow stopped them. The BJP has called the attackers “goons of PWD Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav”.

The Uttar Pradesh police chief has admitted that “we knew they had arms, didn't think they would fire at us.” Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav too has admitted the mistake but only about the police ill-preparedness in taking on the organised gang of encroachers. He is silent on political protection to criminals. The scale of preparedness and the audacity of the attack by the band of thugs using the name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose took everyone by surprise. Law and order is expected to become a hot poll issue in the coming assembly elections.

Violent consequences of political patronage to godmen and criminals are not confined to UP. Haryana was on the brink when godman Rampal and his followers refused to submit to court orders in 2014. On Mathura a BJP spokesman wondered: “Why was the government missing?” He forgot the BJP-ruled Haryana when Rampal asserted his power and mobs ransacked towns and cities during the Jat agitation. It has become a common feature of India’s electoral politics. Godmen and gangsters have proliferated with political blessings in Punjab and Haryana as well. Ruling politicians, however, can protect them only up to a point. When courts intervene finally, the results are usually disastrous.