High time for CBI or SIT probe into Muzaffarnagar riots?

The apex court’s latest indictment of the state and central governments however, doesn't exonerate BJP of its alleged role in the riots

deevakar

Deevakar Anand | March 27, 2014


At a riot relief camp in Muzaffarnagar
At a riot relief camp in Muzaffarnagar

The supreme court holding the Akhilesh Yadav led Uttar Pradesh government “prima facie” guilty of failing to prevent the Muzaffarnagar communal riots has underpinned the accusation being labelled on the state government ever since the riots occurred in September last year.

Unfortunately, especially so for the riot victims (59 of whom were killed and about 50,000 rendered homeless), beyond just reinforcing what was already so obvious, the apex court’s indictment of the state’s role has done little.

The court while criticising the government’s negligence in preventing the riots turned down the plea for an SIT or CBI probe “at this juncture” while dismissing a bunch of petitions by victims and residents.

Here’s why, it’s high time an SIT or a CBI probe into the Muzaffarnagar riots is needed:

Six months after the riots in western UP, it is still unclear why and more importantly how a minor issue of eve-teasing at a village named Kawal, could lead to communal violence of the scale of the Muzaffarnagar riots – India’s deadliest in over a decade post the Gujarat riots.

Unlike the other major riots in the country (read Gujarat in 2002, Bombay in 1993, and Bhagalpur in 1989) which had strong communal backdrop to them, the September 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, by the looks of it, had a more dangerous backdrop- the looming 2014 general elections.

In Muzaffarnagar, on ground there is hardly any narrative convincing enough to explain any strong cause of the riot except for it being a fabricated violence fanned by vested political interests.

What else can possibly explain the killing of 16 poor innocent villagers in Fugana village on the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli districts’ border, about 60 kilometres away from Kawal, the epicenter of the riots?

Kawal is located on the completely distant extreme of the Muzaffarnagar district  where on August 27 last year, two male Jat cousins allegedly lynched to death a Muslim youth who stalked their college-going sister. Allegedly, the revengeful kin and neighbours of the Muslim youth then lynched the two.

It is instructive that though the violence spread elsewhere and engulfed the districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat and Meerut, it never returned to Kawal again.

Prior to the Muzaffarnagar riots, the Jats and the Muslims of western Uttar Pradesh had always lived in relative peace.

Even at the peak of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jats never turned sectarian Hindus and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ was never heard at the local influential Jat leader Mahendra Singh Tikait’s farmer’s movements.

However, on September 7, Jats held a ‘Bahu-Beti Izzat Bachao Jat Mahapanchayat’ reportedly attended by over 50,000 people where Tikait’s son Rakesh was found sharing the stage with BJP leaders and where the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan formed the fulcrum of the anti-Muslim hate speeches.

It has been widely believed that the pogrom of Muslims in far off Jat dominated villages like Fugana¸ Lank, Lisarh and others at the time of riots was in revenge of an attack on a convoy of Jats going back to their village after the mahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar’s Jauli village by an armed Muslim mob. This was conveniently fed to the rioters by leaders with vested political interests and mistaken as truth by a large section of the national and the international press.

However, according to police records, of the seven of those who were killed at Jauli, five happened to be Muslims themselves.

It is these fabricated narratives and many more unexplained causes for horror stories from the Muzaffarnagar riots that the SIT or CBI probe is crucial. At least in comparison to the state government appointed special investigation cell led by an officer of the additional SP rank drawn from UP’s reserve police force, the SIT or CBI could have probed better.

A high-level impartial probe shall also establish the cynical politics by the AKhilesh's government in allowing such a jat mahapanchayat and before that a similar congression of some 15000 Muslims on August 30 in which SP leader Rashid Siddiqui, Congress leader and ex-MP Saeed-uz-Zaman and Bahujan Samaj Party MP Kadir Rana, among others, made sectarian speeches soon after the Friday prayers in Muzaffarnagar city, when the situation had been extremely tense  for over a week.

The apex court in its indictment has also underlined that both the centre and the UP government failed to inform it whether the district administration was sent an alert “about the proposed action between the two communities”.

It is in this shyness of the governments to provide such extremely useful information to the court that probably a nugget of useful information is hidden and that can be probed by either the CBI or SIT more effectively.

Such indictments by courts that fixes no real responsibility and time bound actions by the states have little real impact on the pace and authenticity of investigations of pogroms like Muzaffarnagar. Rather, it only allows political parties to latch on to an opportunity to criticise each other.

Despite deep concerns raised by the apex court in February about the pitiable condition of riot victims in dozens of relief camps of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, not much has changed so far. 

The BJP has been quick to question the “silence” of other parties over SC’s latest criticism of the governments in Lucknow and New Delhi.
According to a PTI report, BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi has said that the “self-appointed guardians of secularism are silent on the SC’s verdict against the SP government and it is a matter of deep concern for democracy.”

Sure, the SP government in UP fiddled and indulged in cynical politics by not responding effectively at the time of the riots,  and by making some highly questionable transfers and suspensions of senior police and district administration officials for political gains and for polarising Muslims in its favour. That, however, besides the SC’s latest condemnation, do not exonerate BJP of its own role in the riots.

BJP's Suresh Rana, Sangeet Som and Hukum Singh, all legislators from the region, were accused of fanning communal hatred during the September riots by making hate speeches.

Som was also accused of planting what turned out to be a two-year-old Pakistani video of a mob thrashing two men mercilessly. Jats were misinformed that the video was that of killing of two cousins from the community at Kawal.

A fair probe by CBI or SIT may prove to be helpful in nailing the real reasons and people behind the Muzaffarnagar riots.

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