Who is responsible for polarisation and communalisation?
Politics, fanatical appeasement policy of the Akhilesh Government and its failure at various levels in dealing with the riots are being blamed by those who have visited the riot-hit areas. The tension between Jats and Muslims has increased since coming of the SP Government. The appeasement of the minority community has encouraged and made it more belligerent while the majority community has got enraged at the biased treatment meted out to them and become aggressive too. It has in retaliation been taking law into its hands as it knows that the authorities would either take no action or after delaying which would be neither here or there.
Specific examples of appeasement were given which showed how appeasement was done and how irate the majority community is! A score or labourers in a tractor-trolley were going past a mosque which was at the very beginning of the village. As the trolley was passing literally in front of it, almost a storm of bricks and stones were thrown at it. Those who could escape ran to the police station and complained. The police at first dismissed the whole incident but persistent appeals by workers induced them to move. When they reached the spot three bodies were lying there.
In another instance, it is said that one of the sons of Tikait, who is quite resourceful despite the tension following the three killings over teasing of a girl, was allowed to convene a mahapanchayat of elders to try for peace. Instead when the coaches of these elders were returning stones were pelted at them. Some say one or two shots were also heard. Why was this mahapanchayat allowed? This particular incident smacks of counter-appeasement.
So when a Muslims-arranged mahapanchayat was held, in a retaliatory action, their coaches too were stoned.
Ironically, communalisation and politicisation began with such a policy. It is, however, very much possible that parties like the BJP would have concertised such phenomenon. The communal riots, particularly in Baghpat, Shamli and eight villages around Muzaffarnagar, which have cost 35 (official figure), would have possibly not happened if the state government had taken action after signals late August that communal riots could break-out. But they were totally ignored.
A religious cauldron as Uttar Pradesh has been infamous for, according to reports, 75 incidents in UP have happened until the last month of this year—this does not include the recent carnage in districts of Muzaffarnagar.
The Akhilesh Government should have been more cautious. The signals from village Kanwal were ominous. A Jat girl was teased by a Muslim boy. The village which has equal population of Muslims and Jats thereafter recorded three killings. First, the Muslim boy who teased the Jat girl was killed by Jats and in retaliation Muslims killed two Jat boys.
Tension increased after Jats in the region called a mahapanchayat to discuss the issue. Officials warned that those who attended the mahapanchayat will also be arrested. But reportedly 1.5 lakh Jats went on buses to attend the mahapanchayat. The coaches were attacked by a mob which pelted stones. Firing too was reported. A few persons reportedly died.
The Jats then organised a revenge attack in which too, a few died. Thus violence erupted in the district. The tension between the two communities had been simmering ever since three youngsters were killed on August 27 over the case of harassment. A report sent by the UP Governor BL Joshi said this. Fuel was added to the fire when reports of arson and rioting in the twin villages of Kutba and Kutbi, about 30 km from Muzaffarnagar came. A masjid, several houses and at least four people were killed in clashes that lasted three hours. The situation was brought under control only after Army personnel were deployed to aid existing security forces.
“An unknown number of people entered the villages armed with guns, knives and petrol bombs at around 10 am. Before security forces arrived, four people were killed and a masjid and at least six houses were torched,” said a senior police officer. He added that rioters even fired at the Army personnel.
Police sources posted in violence-hit villages said security forces had shoot-at-sight orders but not a single rioter was reported as injured on Sunday. According to the police, the rioters primarily comprised Jats who had escaped into the sugarcane fields on Saturday night. “They had fled and stayed the night in the fields. On Sunday afternoon, they returned to their villages to carry out attacks. We believe most suspects were known to their victims,” said a senior officer.
This is not a one-off incident, this is what is happening across Muzaffarnagar district. These villages have been turned into killing fields even as rumours fly thick in the air. Nobody knows for certain how many people have died in the violence. The official tally is of 40 casualties but ask around Muzaffarnagar, nobody believes that tally; neither the ordinary people nor local media persons, nor netas and not even the cops. Everybody tells you alks in whispers, “it’s more than a hundred”, others allege “at least 250 dead in 10 days”.
The politicians can only be blamed for fanning the fire and ensuring their vote-bank is safe. In the case of riots in Muzaffarnagar district, the tension between the two communities was already there, the netas political interventions were like igniting a tinderbox. Go into areas where Hindus are in majority they would tell you that Muslims are Pakistanis and terrorists. Go into area where Muslims are in a majority, they would tell you Hindus live in a basically Hindu-country, they are resourceful and they try to cower us down.
But when authorities discriminate due to appeasement policy, polarisation and communalisation takes place. A report in Hindustan Times rightly said “Protect Votes, Not Voters”, a clear message to the Yadav Government. It points out how promptly IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal was suspended for allegedly risking communal tension by ordering demolition of a mosque wall. Its approach in Muzaffarnagar has been different. It has been trying to keep the minority voters away from the Congress. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar in trying to keep minority voters has been hesitating to arrest and question the Indian Mujahideen’s lynchpin Yasin Bhatkal, fearing alienation of the minority community.
The result is that the BJP has made inroads in the area and well-placed majority of 17 MPs seats. The fight would be between BJP and the BSP.
The likes of Akhilesh and Nitish by their appeasement policy have led to the firming of communalisation and polarisation. They have hit the secular spirit in this country. Unfortunately, communal riots which were urban phenomenon have now spread to rural areas. It is because of the neo-urbanisation of villages due to an increasing influx from the countryside to the urban areas. This explains the sudden spurt in sales of country-made arms. The solution is to return to secularism both in letter and spirit. If this does not happen quickly, India is doomed.
By Vijay Dutt