Riotous past returns to haunt western UP

While the region of western UP has not seen big-time rioting in the last nearly a couple of decades, there are indications that the ongoing communal conflagration follows the past pattern

ajay

Ajay Singh | September 10, 2013


Eerie silence: Muzaffarnagar under curfew.
Eerie silence: Muzaffarnagar under curfew.

Cricket and riots are intricately interwoven in the social life of western Uttar Pradesh. And the two have an uncanny similarity in being highly unpredictable.

Legendary cricketers have found bats manufactured in Meerut highly reliable. But that is no insurance against the unpredictability of the game. Similarly, the Green Revolution that ushered prosperity in western UP has failed to put a stop to riots.

The frequency with which riots have occurred in the region shows perpetual social hostility, which is often stoked by politics. But the latest communal riots that have engulfed Muzaffarnagar and parts of western UP mark a deviation. They were quite predictable.

For the last six months, there has been intense betting on the possibility of an outbreak of riots and its timing. What was very obvious to Meerut's Satta Bazaar, or the betting market, should apparently be known to those running the state administration. Those sitting in the police headquarters and the home department in Lucknow were flooded with intelligence inputs which sketched a scary communal scenario in the region. Over 100 communal skirmishes were reported and most of them had the potential to trigger serious disturbances.

In fact, there was enough evidence to suggest that western UP had turned into a veritable tinderbox ready to explode under any pretext. That spark was provided a fortnight ago when two boys were publicly lynched after allegedly murdering an alleged eve-teaser from the Muslim community. Since the boys belonged to the Jat community, the killing evoked intense reaction in rural areas.

The impression that the Samajwadi Party and its government were hell bent in protecting the erring Muslims further inflamed passions. The decision to call a ‘mahapanchayat’ under the banner of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in Muzaffarnagar on September 7 was intended to further raise the communal temperature. The presence of BJP-VHP leaders in the forum gave a political colour to the entire episode.

For the past one week, the administration and police have been incapacitated by the political executives from Lucknow when it comes to exercising their judicious discretion on law and order. District police officials are forced to play the second fiddle to Samajwadi Party leaders in parts of western UP where many mini-CMs have emerged in the Akhilesh Yadav regime. This was why the police could not nip the trouble in the bud by tackling an ordinary crime case of the killing of three youths in Muzaffarnagar.

And there are enough reasons for police inefficiency. Despite his stature as a national leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his party could not give up its old habit of meddling with the police and administration on routine basis. That 70 percent of key police stations are manned by inspectors belonging to the Yadav caste is a tell-tale sign of this brazen interference. In such a scenario, merit takes the backseat while those protecting the interests of their political mentors are given prized postings.

Those aware of communal history of the region would know that it would be most difficult to contain riots if they spread to rural areas. There have been a series of riots in the region since 1962, when uncontrolled violence in Meerut took a heavy human toll. In 1982, the town witnessed even worse communal clashes, followed by further clashes in 1987, resulting in killing of Muslims by the provincial armed constabulary (PAC) in Hashimpura and Maliana.
In 1990, communal clashes in Khurja, in Bulandshahar district, left over 100 dead.

With an effective presence of media and civil rights groups, the past could not revisit the region for over a decade. But there are all indications that the ongoing communal conflagration follows the pattern of the past – and the spread of the riots is wider and more intense than expected.

There have been over a score of serious riots that have taken place in western UP. In most cases, either the culprits have been let off or the investigation has not been pursued with vigour and determination. For instance, the cause of the riots that led to police-Muslim clashes in Dasna and Mussorie is still a mystery. The recovery of torn pages of the Holy Quran led to those clashes.

Similarly, there have been reports of communal violence in Bulandshahar and Mathura in which people from rural areas took part. There were ominous signals about the gathering trouble which the state administration consistently chose to ignore. However, bookies and punters in the region were more prescient and wiser by the experience and betted heavily on the inevitability of the riots, says an intelligence officer monitoring the situation.

Perhaps the situation seems quite analogous to cricket, barring the fact that those manufacturing the best bats in the game invariably employ Muslim artisans. While cricket is not communal but tainted by greed, politics is all about the reckless pursuit of power irrespective of its social cost. Unfortunately, western UP appears to be firmly in the vicious grip of these tendencies.

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