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The politics behind the violence in Muzaffarnagar

By Sharat Pradhan
September 09, 2013 18:28 IST
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The Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party are using communal violence to polarise the voters in the state with an eye on the 2014 general elections, reports Sharat Pradhan   

Alleged inflammatory speeches by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders is believed to be the main trigger behind the communal violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district. While the BJP calls it “one-sided” action against Jats, both Jats and Muslims are equally responsible for setting off the violence, say sources.

The violence has claimed 31 lives and about 40 are hospitalised with injuries in what is seen as one of the worst communal riots in recent years.

“Criminal cases have been registered against BJP MLAs Hukum Singh, Suresh Rana and Sangeet Som, Congress MLA Harendra Malik, as well as Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders, Rajesh Tikait and Naresh Tikait for making inflammatory speeches at the September 7 panchayat in Kawal village where violence first broke out,” a local police officer told over the telephone from Muzaffarnagar.

With the 2014 national elections not far away, the escalation of violence is seen as a tool for political parties. Both the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party have been doing their bit to polarise the Muslim and Hindu votes.

It is an open secret that the Samajwadi Party has been depending heavily to build its political fortunes through polarisation of the Muslim votes. Similarly, the BJP is trying its best to woo the Hindu voters.

Widely believed to be supplementing each other, the SP and BJP have also been accused of being “hand-in-glove” for taking communal issues to a high pitch.

While blaming it all on the BJP, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said in Lucknow, “A minor scuffle between two individuals has been blown into a riot simply because it is being fueled by BJP leaders. Such incidents do occur sometimes, but currently these small incidents are being used to serve the communal ends of political parties like the BJP who have nothing else to bank upon at a time when the general elections are not far away.”

He was referring to the incident of eve teasing by a Muslim youth, which sparked off the initial clash on August 27. Three persons were killed in the incident. “Earlier such incidents were treated like routine crime and dealt with accordingly, but the BJP used it to comunalise the atmosphere so that it could win the votes of Jats in the region,” the chief minister alleged.

Asked to comment on the opposition’s demand for clamping of President’s rule in the state, Akhilesh told mediapersons, “Those very people are responsible for fomenting communal trouble.”  He was speaking shortly after sending the first batch of Muslims for Haj pilgrimage from Lucknow Haj House.

“We will bring the situation under control,” said the chief minister, adding, “We have already shunted out a number of police officers and more will be removed from that area to ensure restoration of peace at all costs.”

He also sought to blame the Bahujan Samaj Party, whose leaders Swami Prasad Maurya and Naseemuddin Siddiqui sought dismissal of the Akhilesh government on account of what they termed as, “complete breakdown of law and order.” Maurya and Siddiqui have urged state Governor B L Joshi to recommend imposition of President’s rule in the state.

Meanwhile, in his report sent to the Union government, Governor Joshi has squarely blamed the Akhilesh government for the rioting. According to a highly placed source, “The Governor has in his report stated that the state government failed to take stern and timely action when the issue was simply limited to an incident of eve-teasing.” 

The report is understood to have also said, “Large-scale violence that followed ten days after the August 27 incident could have been averted if firm action had initially been taken by the state government.”

Image: A man rides his motorbike on a deserted street during a curfew in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh 

Photograph: Reuters

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow