Swati Chandra | June 13, 2015
About a fortnight ago, I spotted a friend nibbling muffins and cakes with two foreign women. They were engrossed in animated conversation at a coffee shop outside my office. The women were from France.
He saw me exiting from my office and waved me to join them. I joined. They were planning an adventure. I call it adventure as the French women (students from France), along with two others, were planning to take an auto ride from Noida to various parts of Uttar Pradesh. The idea was to visit different cities of the state and show how ‘safe’ the state is. My friend was helping them with their itinerary and other things.
I was surprised not because these women would ride the auto rickshaw alone traversing most of the Uttar Pradesh. I was actually surprised about the interest of these girls in promoting ‘safe’ tag of a state, which is notorious in all ways. Coming from Uttar Pradesh, and specially working there as a struggling journalist, I know how safe the state is.
We warmly welcomed a group of French students, who are on a three week auto trip of UP. They will see the state,... http://t.co/FjmbdMv0DI— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) June 8, 2015
As the coffee shop group worked on the details of the auto ride, memories of my reporting days started rewinding in my mind but stayed put there. My encounters, my experiences and the concept of safety are mine, did not feel like burdening the French women with these thoughts. However, I was miffed with their idea and conversation, and left the place after wishing them good luck.
As the French group began their trip, I started following them through Facebook and Tumblr. The auto they rode on had a big poster of state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav hung on the back. May be this is the reason the girls landed safely in Lucknow. They were received by Akhilesh and his wife Dimple (member of parliament) on their arrival in Lucknow. Local media covered the event like a festival. The story that comes along with colour pictures of ‘firangs’ has more selling price than that carrying local women, my colleague in a leading English newspaper once told me. Young Akhilesh and other SP leaders shared their pictures with these French students praising them for their idea. UP is safe and it’s proved.
But only around that time a journalist was burnt alive in the same state. I believe this spoiled the image built by the French women’s auto trip certifying the safety in the state. The journalist, identified as Jagendra Singh, was allegedly burnt alive by police officers after they raided his house on June 1. The scribe passed away during treatment on June 9.
According to his family members, Jagendra had posted messages on Facebook against Uttar Pradesh Minister Ram Murti Singh Verma and regarding his alleged involvement in illegal mining and land grabbing.
The FIR has been lodged under IPC 302 (murder), 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation). But no arrest has been made so far. Video clip of the last words of the scribe, blaming the minister for his death, is viral on the web. This has come as one of the worst indictments of the UP government and the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh.
UP might be safe for the French students, but not for its very own people.
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