The Kotwali police station is just 300 metres from the place where communal clashes on Republic Day left a 22-year-old shot dead. As reports of the violence came in, the station was virtually empty. Most officers had been deployed at the police lines for the Republic Day celebration. But the larger problem – which amplified the violence – is that the city has only police station for its population of over 1.01 lakh. According to IG (Aligarh) Sanjeev Gupta, the Kasganj police has a strength of 100 personnel.
Since the violence, the police have been in a process of sending a proposal to Lucknow to urgently create at least three new police stations in the city. The 1.01 lakh population is as per the 2011 census; the police estimate the present population to be closer to 2 lakh.
The death of Abhishek Gupta took place at Tehsil Road, 300 metres from the police station. After the communal tension first began among residents of Baddunagar around 10 am, the police station received a phone call alerting them. The killing happened two hours later, near the city’s tehsil.
Speaking to The Indian Express, IG Gupta said, “Most of the police in the district were deployed at the Police Lines, where Republic Day marches were going on. That was about 10 kilometres away. The violence was sudden, without any precedent or warning. It took the police deployed there at least 30 minutes to reach the spot where the clashes were going on. Police officers were also injured… There have been various demands in the past to put in new police stations. But it hasn’t happened. The city is divided into six zones. We are thinking of either one police station in each zone or one police station covering two zones,” he said.
Kasganj city is the district headquarters of Kasganj. The 71st district of Uttar Pradesh, it was carved out of Etah district in 2008, with then CM Mayawati announcing that it would also include the Patiali and Saron tehsils.
As per NCRB data, Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of cases of murder in 2016 – 4,889 – accounting for 16.1% of all murders in the country that year. As of April 2017, the state had 1.81 lakh police personnel working against the sanctioned strength of 3.63 lakh, to take care of the state’s 21 crore population – roughly one police personnel for every 1,160 citizens. With a strength of about 100 police personnel for the city’s population, of 1.01 lakh, the situation in Kasganj city is actually slightly better than in the rest of the state – one cop for every 1010 persons.
Manned by a single police station, the city is centred around a clocktower, has different historical gates serving as entry points, and is criss-crossed with narrow lanes. “The violence could have been controlled. But the problem is twofold – one that Kasganj, unlike other cities in Uttar Pradesh, doesn’t have a high crime rate. So, it appears that the police officers were simply not prepared, or even equipped. Secondly, there is just one police station in the entire district…” said a senior police officer.
“As the violence continued on the second day, it was magnified by the city’s geography. As the police would move to one spot to stop violence, another vehicle would be torched or a shop gutted in the space they vacated,” said the officer. “If there is any case of a police lapse, we will take action. We are looking at the digital footprints of the call received and the police response, apart from looking at questions as to whether the police had an idea
about the precipitating incidents,” said IG Sanjeev Gupta.
The violence was triggered by a march to mark Republic Day. Sparring groups, who started with hurling stones at each other, later fired shots, leaving Abhishek Gupta dead. In retaliation, several shops were gutted the next day, said police.