The UP region is a case study in India’s political degeneration since Independence
Ajay Singh | April 12, 2018
“Sadak par todti patthar, Dekha maine use Allahabad ke path par (She was breaking stones, I saw her on footpaths of Allahabad)”.
This verse by Hindi poet Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’ is not alien to anyone conversant with elementary Hindi literature. Nirala revolutionised Hindi poetry by penning in simple words a complex concept of individualism and stood tallest among his contemporaries.
Nirala belonged to Unnao, a town sandwiched between two big cities: Lucknow and Kanpur. It stood dwarfed by the two, since Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is also recognised as a cultural centre and Kanpur was the economic capital of the state on account of its industries. It is always seen as a backyard of the two cities in terms of political influence and financial muscle.
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Yet, Unnao used to take pride in its literary heritage and patriotic lineage. Apart from Nirala, a host of Hindi poets and authors like Shiv Mangal Suman came from this region. Though it drew its patriotic lineage by claiming to have links with revolutionary icon Chandrashekhar Azad’s forefathers, the district produced many other valiant freedom fighters. In the Rebellion of 1857, people of the area, particularly subalterns, resisted the British Army before allowing it to enter either Kanpur or Lucknow.
But this illustrious history of Unnao is meaningless in today’s context. Since Independence, Unnao has travelled far away from its path to become a hub of crime, casteism, and chaos. Few would remember that Unnao shot into the limelight when its Lok Sabha representative and minister of state for environment in the Rajiv Gandhi government, Ziaur Rehman Ansari, was accused of molesting an activist named Mukti Dutta inside his office in the late 1980s.
The event came as a shock as the political culture had then not degenerated to protecting and promoting moral turpitude. Rajiv forced Ansari to resign within a few days. Ansari, an old man, could never revive his political fortunes and died in ignominy.
Since the 90s, Unnao has slipped into a political journey which is guided by intense casteism, criminality, corruption and communalism.
Being a Brahmin-dominated constituency, it attracted Brahmin mafia like Aruna Shankar Shukla. At the same time, the constituency accepted outsiders like Annu Tandon, whose sheer tenacity to work for the development of the region saw her tide over caste and communal divides till 2014.
Political parties have been pandering to the basest impulses of the region’s electorate since the 90s. This reality was aptly summed up in an instance quite indicative of the degeneration that has taken hold of the polity. In October 2013, prior to the Lok Sabha polls, the Archeology Survey of India (ASI) carried out a massive excavation operation in Daundia Khera village to locate a hidden treasure.
Ironically, the ASI’s operation was based on the premonition of a local seer named Shoban Sarkar who claimed to have dreamed of this treasure, containing 1,000 tonnes of gold. The entire government machinery was working at the whim of the seer. There was a race among all parties to win over Shoban Sarkar: Not for spiritual but political reasons.
It would be neither shocking nor surprising, then, to find that this constituency is represented in the Lok Sabha by Sakshi Maharaj of BJP, who at the time of contesting the 2014 elections had, in his affidavit, declared as many as eight criminal cases pending against him. The eight cases cover a wide range, from dacoity with murder to criminal intimidation to cheating and dishonesty.
In 2004, Maharaj was expelled from the Rajya Sabha (as a Samajwadi Party member) after a sting operation showed him misusing MPLADS fund. Once there was a gang-rape accusation against Maharaj and others, leading him to spend some time in the Tihar Jail, but eventually, he was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Kuldeep Singh Sengar, in the eye of the controversy after the death in judicial custody of the father of a rape victim who has pointed an accusing finger at him, is the MLA from Bangarmau in Unnao and lives up to the standards set by the previous MP.
His sordid saga must be seen as a logical sequel to political and moral degeneration that has consumed state politics. Coming from a criminal background, the legislator and his family members are cocksure of getting away with rape and murder despite overwhelming evidence against them. He is seen as close to the chief minister and a set of high functionaries who bear no compunction in allowing criminals to go scot-free. Yogi Adityanath, a seer himself apart from being the chief minister, cannot be deterred even by the curse of divinity.
And so far as Nirala’s evocative poem about the poor woman is concerned, let his district represent a perverse parody of it.
[This comment has appeared on FirstPost.com]
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