The charred remains of SHO Subodh Kumar Singh’s vehicle, set on fire by a mob in Bulandshahr on Monday. (Express file photo)
Since the Supreme Court’s July 17 directive, asking state authorities to crack down on incidents of mob violence and lynching, the Uttar Pradesh police have arrested 54 people for alleged cattle smuggling in Meerut range, under which Bulandshahr district falls. The number of arrests in cases of cow vigilantism, however, is zero.
The Supreme Court had asked state governments to designate a nodal officer heading a special task force in each district — to procure intelligence reports and identify districts where incidents of mob violence and lynching had been reported in the past five years. The nodal officer was not supposed to be below the rank of SP.
Additional Director General (Meerut range) Prashant Kumar told The Indian Express, “We have deputed an Additional SP-rank officer as nodal officer in pursuance of SC directives. There has been a lot of good work done by police as our teams have cracked down on 40 cattle smuggling incidents, out of which 54 persons were arrested. In those crackdowns, 21 cattle smugglers were injured.”
The ADG also said that of the nine cases lodged under the National Security Act in the last five months, eight are against alleged cattle smugglers. The police have said they have not arrested any cow vigilantes so far as previous incidents of cow slaughter and cattle smuggling have been controlled by the police before the vigilantes could take control of the situation. “In the Siyana incident, it took three hours to control the situation as the bulk of police force was deputed for Itjema procession where more than 10 lakh people had gathered,” Kumar said .
A Crime Branch officer said officers who went to control the mob in Siyana could not predict the possibility of the situation escalating as no previous incident of mob violence had been reported from the area. Officers from the Crime Branch said incidents of vigilante violence have been “sporadic and not documented” as the police have, in the past, been able to reach on time and file an FIR every time allegations of cow slaughter have been raised.
“The aim is to make sure that vigilante outfits do not become a law and order problem. So when a carcass is found, the police rushes to the spot before these outfits can take control,” a Crime Branch officer said. The usual course of action, the officer said, is to send the carcass to the forensic lab and promise prompt action against the accused.
The Supreme Court directive had also mentioned that it “shall be the duty of the Central Government as well as the State Governments to take steps to curb and stop dissemination of irresponsible and explosive messages, videos and other material on various social media platforms which have a tendency to incite mob violence and lynching of any kind”. In pursuant of those orders, the UP DG O P Singh sent a notice on July 15 to the officers which read: “UP Police has already set up a twitter account @UPPViralCheck which will check viral fake tweets. It is also important that the rumours are tackled on WhatsApp because a large number of people in this country use WhatsApp.”
The UP police also came up with the concept of a digital volunteer on a police station level, who will set up WhatsApp groups on a police station level and the group will have 250 members members, including school authorities, journalists, local NGO workers, student leaders, doctors, lawyers and other prominent traders. The new SHO (Siyana) Kiran Pal Singh told The Indian Express, “We do operate on a WhatsApp group but we have only shared information about crime related workouts and read about problems of several members. I am yet to join the Siayana WhatsApp group.”