The entire state of Uttar Pradesh was in a state of turmoil following its demolition. “Murder in the Bylanes” is a gripping account of how a demoralised and broken police force, reduced to being a bystander in pockets where criminals controlled localities, was asked to maintain order in the city of Kanpur. A book review by Raj Kanwar
In his long and eventful career span of 37 years in the Indian Police Service, Aloke Lal has had a gamut of exciting experiences. His most venturesome escaped was the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, and the terrible consequences that followed it.
The entire state of Uttar Pradesh was in a state of turmoil following its demolition. In his latest book “Murder in the Bylanes – Life and Death in a Divided City”, Aloke recounts his experiences in policing a city on the verge of riots.
Kanpur then had a population of nearly two million, of which one in five was a Muslim. The years following the demolition of Babri Masjid saw an unprecedented upheaval in the already tense relationship between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Demolition of Babri Masjid
THE catastrophic demolition of the Babri Masjid by ‘frenzied Hindu mobs’ had agitated the Muslims, particularly in the Muslim dominated neighbourhoods like Sujatganj. There were clashes between the two communities; a few Hindu shops and houses were set ablaze, and Hindus were forced to flee and seek refuge in the Shyamnagar – a Hindu-dominated colony at a stone’s throw away from Sujatganj. Other areas also experienced communal incidents. Likewise, Hindus too reciprocated by killing Muslims and setting their homes on fire in the colonies where they predominated.
Rebellion by Police
An isolated incident happened when the dead body of constable Bhola Ram Yadav in a ‘highly decomposed condition’ was discovered in a drain; he had been missing for a few days. The incident instantly led to a rebellion of sorts in the Police Lines, where the men had gone berserk demanding immediate arrest of the killers of Yadav. A high-level investigation team was instantly appointed that worked throughout the night. Happily, two suspects namely Mohammad Imran and Atiq Mohammad had been arrested and brought to the police station by 4 a.m. That somehow managed to pacify the agitated policemen.
“Murder in the Bylanes” is a gripping account of how a demoralised and broken police force, reduced to being a bystander in pockets where criminals controlled localities, was asked to maintain order. It is also a reminder of how communal disharmony can tear apart the existing social fabric. It is not the intent of the reviewer to summarize this fascinating book. Suffice it would be to say that the father-son duo Aloke and Maanas Lal has written an unputdownable book, and deserve all the credit.
Aloke Lal is a distinguished police officer who has worked in top positions both in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. He has many literary and artistic pastimes including photography.
Like father, like like son.
Its co-author Maanas too is a prolific writer and specializes in fiction, social satire, and the changing trends in the national politics. Like his father, he is also an artist and photographer of immense merit. His soft skills and art workshops are a regular feature in India’s leading schools and professional institutions.
Raj Kanwar is a Dehra Dun-based 91-year old veteran journalist, writer and author. His latest books are DATELINE DEHRA DUN with the School Town of India and its sequel DATELINE DEHRA DUN Plus 45 Admirable Couples.
Title: Murder in the Bylanes: Life and Death in a Divided City
Author: Aloke Lal and Maanas Lal
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Price: Rs. 499/-