The tragic killing of eight policemen in Kanpur while they were attempting to arrest ganglord Vikas Dubey is a massive law and order failure that has been crying for greater public attention. Dubey had reportedly mobilised a private militia of sorts by recruiting unemployed young men. Such private armies of criminal gangs, religious cults, and various caste/political groupings are a threat to the state and citizens. No less a policing failure is the rampant trade and manufacture of illegal arms across many North Indian states. The failure of the police and political establishment on this score is now coming home to roost.
When criminal gangs arm themselves with guns, ordinary people are also forced to procure arms for self-defence and the subsequent proliferation of guns in society gives the police the leeway to demand greater militarisation to deal with the dangers on the job. This would be the wrong approach to take, given the levels of violence in Indian policing. Instead of resorting to populism on this score, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath must tell his police force to get cracking on gun control and seize all illegal guns.
It could even have a salutary effect on neighbouring states that enjoy their own flourishing illegal gun trade. The disbanding of private militias, whether run by criminal elements or various other groups operating under the veneer of social acceptability must begin in right earnest. The UP Police must make amends for the loss of its personnel, not just by bringing the Dubey gang to justice, but by also tamping down on the greater threat to law and order posed by illegal guns trade.