27 July, 2021

Dial 100 For Encounter

Police as a totem of fear. Uttar Pradesh’s cops have earned it the hard way.

Photograph by Naeem Ansari
Dial 100 For Encounter

It’s almost puzzling how solitary crimes sometimes shake the soul of a city and att­ain a scale and proportion way beyond their immediate, often petty circumstan­ces. The unhurried city of Lucknow in ­Uttar Pradesh, the genteel home of tehzeeb, is presently convulsed by shock and horror. No long roll call of casualties here—indeed, one corpse on a city street seems insignificant compared to the hundreds who die of encephalitis just a few hours’ drive away. Still, because of what it comes to symbolise, how it concentrates unto itself a lot of ambient fears and meanings from the surrounding context, it has touched the city’s people at a very elemental level. Instead of their old networks of conviviality generating a sense of comfort and security, the discussions in Lucknow have acquired a tinge of abstract dread. As if their fabled way of life is itself a casualty, as if the city’s character is changing for ever—if not headed for the morgue.