Exclusive: Centre got the army on the ground
Sources in the Home Ministry inform us that the armed forces were called in against the wishes of the SP government
Sadiq Naqvi Delhi
September 7, 2013: Soon after the Jaat Mahapanchayat got over a few kilometers from the Muzaffarnagar district headquarters, violent confrontation began between the Muslims and the Jaats who were returning to their villages. The conflagration was getting worse. People were being shot and stabbed. Some were even thrown in the canal. There was mayhem in many villages.
Intelligence inputs coming in to the Capital from Muzaffarnagar pointed to more serious results if the violence was not contained — there was massive mobilization in the villages that could lead to unimaginable bloodletting. This is when the Union Government realized that the situation had gotten out of hand and that the UP government would not be able to control it. All the assessments of the state government proved wrong. A reporter of The Indian Express, who was present with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on September 7 wrote: “His Director General of Police had just returned from the area a day before and told him matters were under control. Prior to that, a Senior Additional Director General of Police had been sent from Lucknow and deployed there specifically to handle the situation. Akhilesh was confident that the worst was over in Muzaffarnagar — an assessment that would prove to be terribly wrong as the day wore on.”
Contrary to the claims made by UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, that the state government realized the seriousness of the situation in Muzaffarnagar and called in the army, authoritative sources in the Home Ministry tell us that this wasn’t the case — that the army was deployed only after intervention from the Union Home Ministry against the wishes of the state administration. “The Chief Secretary of the UP government was not in favour of the army moving in,” reveals a source. The army was finally called in at 3 am.
It is learnt that Intelligence had credible inputs that if the Centre didn’t intervene and get the armed forces on the ground, the situation might take an even more bloody turn, so top officers in the Union Home Ministry got in touch with the District Magistrate and got him to issue an order asking for the deployment. Locals and even journalists point out that the presence of the armed forces did indeed deter rioters. Interestingly, even when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the district he insisted on a meeting with the district officials at the helipad itself before proceeding to the affected areas. This is not usually the norm, for district administration is under the control of the state government.
The Centre surely wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened in 1992 when the mobs brought down Babri Masjid, leading to unprecedented communal violence in the state even as the Armed forces were kept on a standby, not allowed to intervene. A similar situation had happened in Gujarat in 2002, when the NDA government under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not show courage to send the army for at least 36 hours after the first incidents of rioting and violence were reported on February 27, 2002.
Amidst allegations that the Samajwadi Party government did not do enough to prevent the riots, the violence that broke out on September 7 left 47 dead and nearly 45,000 people displaced from the villages.