In a video gone viral, a top Uttar Pradesh police officer is seen raising his hand to pledge with some others forthe "early construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya" at a function organised by one of the many Hindutva brigades. The event was held at Lucknow University days before a three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of India began holding final hearings in the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land
dispute. The conduct of the senior government official has expectedly roused sharp reaction from not onlyfrom the Opposition but also from his peers in the police department. The Indian Police Service (IPS) Association has publicly condemned the act, asserting that it was against the ethos of neutrality, fairness and uprightness that the services stand for. However, the officer himself is unrepentant and the state government has defended him, asserting that even a government officer has the right to be a devotee of Lord Ram.
The episode shows the dangerous levels of politicisation and communalisation of the police in Indias most populous state and that the BJP government is brashly exploiting it to further its Hindutva agenda. In another instance of the same, recently, the state government chose a 1992-batch IPS officer to the Gorakhpur zone in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanaths constituency, despite his four-year dubious "absence" during which he was working as the state secretary of the BJP in Gorkhaland and a serious contender for the parliamentary seat there. The oppositions protest that the posting was a "reward for his services to the BJP" was disdainfully ignored. The unabashed use of police as a tool to further the BJPs communal agenda has destroyed the independence of the state police and totally demoralised the forces. While those who fall in line are rewarded, those who do not are persecuted and, frequently, threatened and thrashed by BJP leaders.
Ironically, when UP was under Samajwadi Party rule before the BJP rode to power in 2017, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had himself said that "politicisation of police is the main cause of UPs law and order problem." He should now act on what he preached and the Centre must intervene to stop the dangerous trend in UP, which has emerged as the crime capital of India. If the Centre fails to ensure that the state government runs as per the rule of law, the Supreme Court will necessarily have to intervene. It had issued a slew of guidelines to curb politicisation of police forces by state governments. It should now ensure that those guidelines are followed in letter and spirit.