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Above: Darvesh Singh Yadav who was shot dead /Courtesy: Facebook

The murder of the first woman chief Darvesh Singh Yadav inside the Agra civil court premises shows that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s “bullet for a bullet” strategy to deal with crime hasn’t quite worked

By Atul Chandra in Lucknow

Courts across the country have often been witness to undertrials and criminals being gunned down in gangland-style killings. But the murder in cold blood of Darvesh Singh Yadav, the first woman president of the Uttar Pradesh Bar Council, by a fellow lawyer sent shockwaves across the state which is already grappling with increased crime against women and lawlessness.

Yadav, 38, who was earlier the vice-president of the UP Bar Council, was elected its president on June 9. Two days later, the soft-spoken lawyer hailing from Etah district was shot dead, allegedly by lawyer Manish Sharma on the busy court premises in Agra. Sharma then turned the gun on himself and died. The motive for the murder, the police said, was professional jealousy but needed “to be thoroughly investigated”. A case of murder has been registered against Sharma.

His wife, Vandana, and another lawyer, Vinit Gulecha, have been named as accomplices.

The daylight murder forced the state government to reiterate that it was committed to providing adequate security on the premises of courts. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said in a statement, “Along with the Bar Council, the Bar Association and the judiciary, the state government is committed to providing adequate security on the premises of the high court and the district courts.”

Expressing grief over Yadav’s death, the chief minister said that “the government will take effective steps, keeping in mind all the parameters of security”. The Allahabad High Court’s registrar-general said in a statement that Chief Justice Govind Mathur “has taken serious view of the incident”. The chief justice also assured the legal fraternity that the High Court was “taking all necessary steps to beef up security on all court premises in the state”. The registrar-general said that the state government had been directed to take “appropriate steps immediately regarding Zero Error security in the High Court, Allahabad and Lucknow and the district courts of the state”. This is not the first time that a legal functionary has been killed on court premises in UP. Earlier this year, an advocate was shot dead in Basti district. Jagnarayan Yadav, 63, was shot while he was working in his chamber. The incident, according to reports, took place in the afternoon. The murderer, a youth, entered Yadav’s chamber and shot him after what seemed a brief discussion and fled.

On June 12, the day of Yadav’s murder, the chief minister held a review meeting of district magistrates, senior superintendents and superintendents of police on the law and order situation in the state. The chief secretary, principal secretary, home, and the police top brass were also present. Although it was a review meeting, the issue of women’s security, which was Adityanath’s campaign issue in the 2017 assembly election, was the main area of concern.

Yadav’s murder, though, was not the only trigger for the meeting. A few days before this incident, a two-year-old girl was brutally murdered and her body mutilated in Aligarh’s Tappal area. Rape could not be confirmed as the body was in a highly decomposed state. The Aligarh incident created a nationwide outcry because of its savagery. In two other cases, a minor girl was raped by six men in Kushinagar on June 8 and a 16-year-old girl was violated in a madarsa in Kanpur with all the incidents happening in quick succession. These heinous crimes are believed to have led to the transfer of Anand Kumar, the state’s ADG, law and order. His replacement, PV Ramasastry, immediately promised revival of the controversial and infamous anti-Romeo squads while also asking women to report crime against them.

Such suggestions from the police bosses carry no weight as down the order the policemen in UP are impervious and insensitive to the plight of women. In one such instance of police insensitivity, a 24-year-old Badaun woman committed suicide as the police refused to register an FIR against men who had gang-raped her. There have been other instances too in which the police failed to respond to a woman’s complaint against harassment/assault.

In 2017, a 17-year-old girl who was criminally assaulted by a BJP MLA from Unnao had to attempt suicide near the chief minister’s official residence in Lucknow to be heard. The extent of police complicity in the crime was finally revealed in a CBI inquiry.

The same year a desperate Dalit girl tweeted to the police for help from a stalker or else she’d be forced to end her life. “@UPpolice plz sir save help me otherwise I got suicide it is last option for me mujpe preser bana re h FIR wapis lu. Mar dalega muje save.” Before she took to Twitter the police were sleeping over her plea for help.

The police routinely avoid registering FIRs to hoodwink authorities into believing that crime in their areas is low. In a video circulated on social media by Deepak Singh, Congress MLC, DGP OP Singh is seen admitting before his subordinates that crimes against women and their harassment were on the rise and nobody is there to check it. “Aap dekh rahen hain ki mahilaon ke prati atyachaar ho rahe hain, unke prati apradh badh rahe hain, gandagee badh rahi hai, koi usko saaf karne wala nahin hai,” Singh is seen telling his officers in the video.

In a written reply to a Samajwadi Party MLA, the government admitted last year that between January 1, 2017, and January 31, 2018, there were 44,936 cases of crime against women, a significant rise compared to 33,728 cases reported during the previous year when Akhilesh Yadav was in power. Rape cases had gone up from 2,943 to 3,704 and those of molestation jumped from 8,159 to 11,404 during the period, the government’s reply said.

According to National Crime Records Bureau figures, over 2010-14, UP recorded maximum deaths—6,920—in gun-related violence in the country. Of these, in 6,228 cases, unlicensed weapons were used. Bihar was at the number two position with 3,397 instances in which unlicensed weapons were used. Though the number came down sharply in 2016 when 1,302 persons were killed using illegal weapons, the state continued to occupy the top position in the country with Bihar again placed at number two with 957 murders.

The murder of the UP Bar Council’s first woman chief inside the court premises shows that Yogi Adityanath’s “bullet for a bullet” strategy to deal with crime hasn’t quite worked.

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