What is their Crime?

Meticulously planned and diabolically organised since a long time this year, the communal violence, killings, destruction and mass displacement in Muzaffarnagar and its neighbourhood villages clearly point to a sinister design to electorally polarize UP 

Sadiq Naqvi Muzaffarnagar

 

“This has been brewing for the last seven to eight months. Nobody paid heed to the incidents. They were happening in the villages and in the towns. Most of them were sorted in the panchayats at the local level. There was a divisive atmosphere with dual beliefs that Muslim boys with beards are being targeted by Hindus and that Hindu girls are being lured by  the Muslims.”

Kaushal Raj Sharma, District Magistrate, Muzaffarnagar


“This Western UP region is seeing such incidents for the last eight months. Hindu girls are being specifically targeted by the Muslims. They lure them and marry them. The administration has been acting in a partisan manner. There have been cases of murder and rape, including in Shamli and the villages in Muzaffarnagar where the administration did not act against the perpetrators who were Muslims. They were seemingly under pressure from the state government.”

— Lalit Maheshwari, functionary, VHP 

“We had written letters in February and again in September to the state government and also to the Centre that our students are being specifically targeted in trains and buses passing through Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Meerut. Groups of young boys would pass inflammatory comments on their beards and tell them to go to Pakistan. Many were beaten up. We had requested for action.”

Mufti Mohammadullah Qasmi, Darul Uloom, Deoband 

 

“I lost eight members of my family. They were butchered in front of my eyes,” says Master Khurseed Ali from Qutba village. “I had voted for the Samajwadi Party (SP).”

Anger is palpable in this relief camp in Basi Kalan, a Muslim-majority village in Muzaffarnagar. Housed in a local madrassa, around 1,500 people from nearby villages have moved to this camp after they were targeted in the recent violence triggered by sinister forces who unleashed a simmering wave of communal polarization.  There was an organized method to this vicious madness. Only villages which had very few Muslims were attacked. People were killed. Later, their houses and mosques were set on fire, forcing the survivors to flee. Almost all Muslims from the 200 villages have moved to relief camps in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat in Western UP. Many refuse to go back. “They will kill us if we go back,” says Akbar, of Qutba village. 

The bloody riots that broke out on September 7, 2013, have caused intense and long-term damage. The subsequent mass displacement and fear have ruined the local economy of this prosperous district, with one of the highest per capita incomes. “The other day my nephew informed me that they had to shut the distillery since the people who supplied wood to fuel the boiler have all run away out of fear,” says Somansh Prakash, a senior Congress leader and a businessman.

It has also played havoc with old ties and social accords.  The carefully crafted Jat-Muslim alliance, which would have given Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) the power to bargain, lies in tatters. The Muslims who enthusiastically voted for the SP in the last assembly polls are living under a cloud of fear. They feel cheated and betrayed, as the SP government did nothing to protect them. Since Narendra Modi’s closest aide, Amit Shah (jailed and accused in the fake encounter killings in Gujarat), took over the reins as the BJP’s pointsman in UP, the diabolical threats of returning to the of riots and violence of the 1990s seem to be manifesting themselves in this region, where the BJP is desperate to enter the Jat fiefdom.  

At his palatial home in Meerut, former minister Kaukab Hameed is aghast. A senior functionary of the RLD, Hameed tells this reporter, “This is unprecedented. We feel as if we have been slapped in the face. Even in 1990 and 1992, when the whole country was burning, this place never saw any communal strife.  Meerut has always been communally volatile. It has seen innumerable riots. But once we would cross the Hindon we would feel safe. This is the first time he has seen such violent hostility and hate in the hinterland inhabited by Jats, Muley Jaats (Muslim Jats) and other communities, both Hindu and Muslim. “The Jats wouldn’t allow us to vote, and yet we lived in peace,” says Akbar.

‘This is unprecedented. We feel as if we have been slapped in the face. Even in 1990 and 1992, when the whole country was burning, this place never saw any communal strife'

For now, the burnt houses and community-run relief camps with thousands of displaced people tell a continuing and tragic tale. “It’s a sorry story. The government should have told the administration to quell the violence and take strict action. They did not do that,” says Prakash. “The entire region has been thrown into communal frenzy by competing communal forces.” Prakash points to the BJP and the ruling SP.  The violence that erupted on September 7 and continued for a good 24 hours left two people dead in the city and almost 50 in the rural areas. Many more are said to be missing as the police continues to compile a “comprehensive list”.   

“It is like Hindustan and Pakistan,” says Bhura of the divide. “He did not visit me although he is my closest aide,” says Yograj Singh, a former minister and local BSP leader. Bhura is visiting his Jat friend after two weeks. “I did not have the courage to venture out and visit a Hindu neighbourhood,” he says. Singh lives in a Jat colony in the heart of the city. “There was continuous firing for two days on the streets. They even caught hold of two Muslim boys who had probably lost their way. I got them to my house where they stayed for a week before the situation improved,” Singh recounts. 

The incident in Qawal village near Jansath is said to be the immediate provocation behind the riots. There are conflicting claims as to what transpired on August 27 that led to the brutal murders of, first, Shahnawaz, a young man from Qawal, and then, Gaurav and Sachin, two boys from the neighbouring Jat-dominated Malikpura village. One version suggests that this was a case of eve teasing — that Gaurav’s cousin and other girls from Malikpura would go to college through Qawal, where they would be harassed by Muslim boys. On the fateful day, this allegedly happened yet again. Gaurav, Sachin and a few other friends set out to teach the Qawal boys a lesson. They bashed up Shahnawaz badly, and, later succumbed to his injuries. While they were fleeing the scene, Sachin and Gaurav were caught by the locals and brutally beaten to death. Ironically, the FIR doesn’t mention the occurrence of eve teasing. Even the girl reportedly told a news channel that she did not know Shahnawaz.  

Meanwhile, as tempers ran high and the situation took a communal turn, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Manzil Saini reached the spot. She caught hold of eight boys from Qawal and brought them to the police station. The same night, former Rajya Sabha MP Amir Alam Khan, said to be close to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, reached the village. He was apparently told that the police was acting in a partisan manner, it did not arrest any Jat youth but took away eight boys from the village. Villagers claimed they were being framed.  It turns out that the whole exercise leading to the arrests and bashing up of Muslim boys by the police was videographed. “There is a video of how those criminals were arrested and beaten up by the police,” says Maheshwari.

However, under pressure from Alam Khan, a powerful politician, the police had to release seven of the eight arrested boys. “Most of them were innocent and were picked up randomly,” a close aide of Alam Khan told Hardnews.

The same night (August 27), District Magistrate (DM) Surendra Singh and SSP Saini were sent packing. (Surendra Singh, from the Jat community, was accused by local SP leaders of being partisan.) “For 20 hours the district was rudderless, without a DM and SSP,” says BSP leader Yograj Singh. “This tense phase was crucial. The new appointees, Kaushal Raj Sharma, who has no prior experience of dealing with a turbulent situation — he has never been posted in a district — and SSP Satish Chandra Dubey, were airdropped only the next day.”

‘No police officer can take refuge saying that political interference stalled police action. Their job is to nab the criminals’

In the meantime, the FIR in the ‘murder case’ of Shahnawaz was also filed; it named, among others, the fathers of Sachin and Gaurav. This, locals point out, infuriated the Jat community which was already upset since the police had freed the Muslim boys.  The transfer of the DM and SSP, too, added fuel to the fire. Sinister rumours were flying all over the place.

Indeed, there was much politicking around Surendra Singh and Saini. Local SP leaders were of the view that they were more lenient towards the Jat community. “With the blessings of a powerful senior bureaucrat based in Lucknow, who is herself a Jat and very close to the SP supremo, these officers were strengthening the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) led by Rakesh Tikait,” says an SP leader. It is learnt that SP leaders had made several requests to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the party’s district in-charge, Azam Khan, for the transfer of these officers. “They are the ones responsible for this situation,” says an SP leader based in Muzaffarnagar.

Meanwhile, there was tension in Qawal, after the Jats, returning from the cremation of the two cousins, attacked shops and installations in the Qawal village market.  By now the mood had changed from sombre to highly aggressive. Vengeance was weighing heavily in the air. That local Jat leaders from across party lines, including from the BJP and BKU, saw this as an opportunity to polarize, only precipitated matters. The brazen and prolonged administrative lapses, and the failure to quickly bring the murderers to book, added to the anger. Uncannily, it was also announced that a mahapanchayat would be convened under the BKU’s banner on August 31. “Had the perpetrators been arrested the same day, things would have been sorted out there and then,” says a Jat sarpanch. “All they were demanding was that the names of the parents be withdrawn and that the people who murdered Sachin and Gaurav be arrested.”

“No police officer can take refuge saying that political interference stalled police action. Their job is to nab the criminals,” says a top cop from a neighbouring district. 

Muslims constitute nearly 40 per cent of the population in Muzaffarnagar. The aggression from the Jats provided the local Muslim leaders with an opportunity to consolidate their constituency. On August 30, a Friday, local Congress leader and former minister Saeeduzzaman proposed a protest meeting at the Shaheed Chowk. Section 144 was clamped. Soon after the Friday prayers in the local mosque in the Muslim locality of Khalapaar, crowds started gathering. “There were almost 5,000 people,” says a local.

The protest meeting, which was initially convened to hand over a memorandum to the DM, took a different turn after local Muslim heavyweights, including BSP MP Qadir Rana, known for his alleged criminal record, his close relative, Noor Saleem Rana, and SP leader Rashid Siddiqui, went onstage and delivered hate speeches targeting the government and the Jats. “I sensed trouble. Hindu localities are just a stone’s throw away. I immediately rushed to the meeting, took the microphone and asked them to disperse. I also took the memorandum,” DM Kaushal Raj Sharma told Hardnews. He says the meeting was held without permission.

‘It was a headless panchayat hijacked by the BJP. People who talk about Hindu-Muslim unity like the compromised Tikait or Congress’s Harendra Malik, were not even allowed on the stage’

The incident was twisted and portrayed as a “Muslim appeasement” gimmick. “The SP government in UP is aligned with a particular community,” a Jat pradhan of a village told Hardnews as he pointed to a photograph of the DM on the stage, published in a local newspaper. “What was the need to go to their meeting? This shows their partisan nature,” says Lalit Maheshwari of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

That same night (August 30), the DM convened a meeting with BKU’s Rakesh Tikait. He was told to cancel the panchayat scheduled the next day; Tikait promptly agreed. This move was seen as a betrayal by the Jat community, with others accusing him of striking a deal with the government. “We don’t know what he was offered that he backed off,” says Yograj Singh. “He compromised,” says the Jat pradhan. Tikait, local Jaat leaders say, has been playing both sides. He is apparently pitching for a BJP ticket from Bijnor and also cozying up to the SP. The news spread, leading to massive mobilization.

“Through the night we tried reaching out to the people who were organizing the panchayat,” claims the DM. He adds that no permission was given for the panchayat on August 31.

On August 31, thousands of Jats assembled at Nagla Mador village. Section 144 was declared. Locals claim that almost 1,000 Jats going to the shok sabha (condolence meeting) were stopped at Sikheda village. “Section 144 was in place. Five companies of paramilitary forces had been deployed. But when we saw that the only way they could be stopped was through force we decided that we would let them go and ensure that they reach back safely,” says the DM. Sources say permission to lathicharge was sought. The bosses in Lucknow did not agree.

 
Copyright: Pallavi Gaur

“It was a headless panchayat hijacked by the BJP,” explains a local. “People who talk about Hindu-Muslim unity like the compromised Tikait or Congress’s Harendra Malik, were not even allowed on the stage,” says VHP’s Maheshwari. “People did not want to hear things about unity. They were angry, seeking action.”

There was no major violence. A car was set on fire, according to the DM’s description of the day. What he did not tell this reporter was that the passengers of the car, all Muslims, were beaten up before the car was burnt. FIRs were registered against people who addressed the meeting. The Jats had announced that if the administration didn’t agree to their demands, they would again hold a mahapanchayat at the same venue. This mahapanchayat witnessed the participation of not only the 17 Jaat khaaps, but also other members of the Hindu community on September 7.  

The next few days saw heightened activity by the administration which tried to cool down nerves. However, people say, not enough was done.  “On September 2, I was told that an all-party meeting had been convened by the DM. I called him up and asked how this would be done when there were FIRs against almost all political leaders. Could he assure us that we would not be arrested? The meeting was then called off,” recalls Yograj Singh. 

Meanwhile, the BJP had sensed blood. A fake video of a nasty murder originally shot in Pakistan was morphed with Hindi subtitles and passed off as the killing of Gaurav and Sachin. The vast network of the RSS and allied organizations of the Sangh Parivar, including on social networks, worked overtime to ensure that the video was widely propagated. Local newspapers, including Dainik Jagran, published grabs. The administration was caught napping.

Even when it woke up to its massive blunder and removed the video from the websites, CDs were distributed in the area. The BJP, sensing blood and heightened communal polarization, also called a district-wide bandh on September 5.

The September 7 deadline was approaching. Inaction could lead to terrible consequences, the administration and the SP top brass in Lucknow knew it too well. And yet, it chose to remain inactive.

 BJP leaders like Suresh Rana, Bhartendu Singh and Sangeet Som delivered one hate speech after another

“For three days, September 4 to September 6, we tried to zero in on the people who were organizing the panchayat. We could not find anyone,” claims the DM, Kaushal Raj Sharma. “We even held a meeting with the sarpanchs. They assured us that young men would not be allowed to participate.”

Tikait, who was looked upon as a ‘community leader’ who could control the Jats, was asked to ensure that things remained under control. Even the DGP who visited the district on September 6 told Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav that nothing was amiss. Arun Kumar – ADGP, Law and Order, infamous for his role in the Arushi murder investigations during his tenure in the CBI — who was  camping in the city and also found things under control. Locals, however, say that the anger was decisively building up. They also claim that the panchayat had the tacit nod of the administration. “The police and the administration were present a day before at the venue when the stage was being built and arrangements were being made. They were there overseeing it along with Tikait,” claims Maheshwari.    

Come September 7 and Jats from all over the region started to pour in for the mahapanchayat. Prohibitory orders were in place. A total of 13 corps of paramilitary forces had been deployed to ‘stop’ the participants. Despite this, nobody was stopped. “They were dissuading everybody, except for the ones going for the panchayat,” says a local.

Tractor trolleys full of Jats began to make their way towards Nagla Mador, the venue. “They were brandishing weapons and abusing us all through,” says Shahzad, from Basi Kalan village. It is in Basi Kalan that the first incident of violence was reported. Locals say that the Jats were carrying an effigy resembling a ‘Muslim Man’ with a beard and a skull cap in place, and they were stabbing it and hurling obscenities at the locals. It is then that locals resorted to pelting stones, leading to minor injuries to a few Jats, who claim that they were attacked and that there was no provocation from their side. Paramilitary forces were sent to the spot. The injured people were allowed to go to the panchayat. “This infuriated the crowd at the mahapanchayat,” says Yograj Singh. “Why did the administration not stop them?”

It was a charged atmosphere at the mahapanchayat. It was evident that the gathering had been hijacked by the BJP. Leaders like Suresh Rana, Bhartendu Singh and Sangeet Som — the firebrand BJP MLA from neighbouring Sardhana who won against the BSP’s Yaqoob Qureshi (the businessman and politician from Meerut infamous for declaring a hefty award for anyone who would kill the Danish cartoonist who made a cartoon of the Prophet) — delivered one hate speech after another. (Som had fought the 2009 Lok Sabha elections on a SP ticket! He is currently in jail on charges of inciting riots.)

The police and the administration kept watching from the sidelines. “Our leaders like Umesh Malik and Sanjeev Baliyan too were active. That is why they have FIRs against them,” says Maheshwari of the VHP. “It wasn’t just a panchayat of the Jats. Everyone attended it.” 

Hell broke loose after the mahapanchayat dispersed. Soon after, Israr, a part time photographer-cum driver, originally from Kandhla, was brutally beaten to death in Sikheda. As the news spread, firing started in Meenakshi Chowk in Muzaffarnagar. “I had stationed myself between Meenakshi Chowk and Shiv Chowk. I could see firing from both sides,” says a top police official at the city police station. Soon after, Rajesh Verma, a stringer with IBN, was shot dead. “I told him not to go there,” says Kaushik, a local journalist. He says Verma was shot at close range. “There is a very big  likelihood of foul-play,” he claims. “All we could hear were people screaming ‘Har Har Mahadev’ from both sides of the lane,” says a local from Abupura. “In response, there were chants of ‘Allah hu Akbar’ followed by gunfire,” he adds. This continued for two hours.

With Modi at the electoral helm, this time the BJP plans to go solo. Hence, its desperation to enter the Jat stronghold in Western UP

By then the administration had given curfew orders in three police stations in Muzaffarnagar. Surprisingly, they did not anticipate violence in the villages when they heard of the first reports of the ambush. People returning to their villages had been attacked in Jolly village. There was a violent confrontation. Guns and kattas (country-made guns) were used by both sides.

Many jumped into the canal to save themselves. “The elderly who could not swim were helped by the young,” says a Jat pradhan. It is learnt that almost ten people were killed in the incident, with most bodies fished out days later.

There were similar outbursts in Pur Baliyan village near Shahpur. “My nephew was shot dead. His head was so severely battered that one couldn’t recognise him,” says Swaraj Singh, from Kaakda village. “It seemed like a planned attack,” he claims. News of violence from other villages started coming in.

Intelligence reports being sent to Delhi caused great unease in the highest echelons of the central government. The possibility of a 1992-style flare-up in the communally sensitive region prompted swift action. There were inflammatory rumours of massive mobilization and that “hundreds of Jats have been killed and thrown in the fields and canal”. It is learnt that top officials of the Union home ministry in Delhi ensured that the army was sent to control the bloodletting. Top officials in Lucknow were unhappy. They did not want the army to come, a source in Delhi informs.

“In the evening, we knew that the army had been called,” RK Shrivastava, Additional District Magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, told Hardnews. “We knew the army was coming. We were in touch with them. The faxes were sent at 11 in the night,” Sharma confirms.  Moreover, attempts to block mobile networks immediately to thwart rumour-mongering also failed, after it became clear that permission from TRAI was needed for any such action.

Eight army columns arrived at the break of dawn. By this time violence had become widespread. During the night of September 7 there were attacks on Muslims. Most attacks were confined to the areas where Muslim families were in small numbers. “The Jat pradhan told us that nothing will happen to us. Although there was a tiff over the evening prayers in the local mosque, he still assured us that he would not let harm come to us,” says Akbar, from Qutba village.

The attack in Qutba and neighbouring Kutbi began at 9 am on September 8. “Around 300 people from Qutba, Kutbi and other neighbouring villages started attacking us. They were armed with rifles, kattas, swords and spears. Devinder, the spouse of the local pradhan and a henchman of the local BJP leader, was leading the attack. A local, Irshad, was the first to die. He had gone to see off some relatives who were visiting him. “He was stabbed and shot brutally near the river,” says Akbar. Recalls Mohd Hussain: “They came to my house. My mother tried to save herself. She was shot. She died in front of my eyes as I tried to save myself.”

Two men went to the pradhan’s house seeking help; they were held hostage. Around nine people were killed in Qutba on September 8. Similar incidents were reported from Lisarh, Lak, Phugana and other villages. “The army saved us. The policemen were mute spectators. They were busy having tea at the pradhan’s house while we were being killed,” says Akbar. All the nine Muslims murdered in Qutba, including a child, were later buried in Basi Kalan. Ironically, BJP leader and one of the key ringleaders in the riots (along with BJP’s Umesh Malik) Sanjeev Baliyan, hails from Qutba.    

There were several reported/unreported incidents. Things came to a boil with clashes in Soram in August, 2013

Soon after the oath-taking ceremony in the city municipal corporation in July 2012, some newly elected Muslim corporators  objected to the practice of singing Vande Mataram. The singing was stopped. However, the local unit of the VHP and BJP made an issue out of it. “We reached out to the people. And organized a protest meet inside the municipality headquarters. Although the administration tried to stop it, I told (then) DM Surendra Singh that he should allow it. It was a success,” recalls Maheshwari of the VHP. This incident was just the beginning of a year-long process of hate politics and communal polarization by the Sangh Parivar, which finally culminated in the September 7 riots and killings. It had all the ingredients of what Paul Brass defines as the ‘Institutionalised Riot System’. It was carried out and executed with sharp precision and a long-term agenda.

“For the last one year we have been educating the people in the villages about their rights. We have been telling them that it is important to safeguard their honour,” says a proud Maheshwari.  

It is this notion of ‘honour’, in a feudal region infamous for honour killings, that was whipped up to create a divide. The sinister and diabolical game of polarization was pre-planned. It got a boost in recent times with the 2014 election on the horizon, and Amit Shah’s elevation to prop up the BJP’s dwindling electoral fortunes in UP. The BJP has only 10 MPs from UP in the current Lok Sabha.

“There have been so many instances of Muslim men running away with Hindu girls. The administration used to even refuse to file an FIR,” claims Maheshwari, cockily. When asked, not one Sangh Parivar activist or leader can cite a credible case as evidence. And yet, the propaganda continued in full swing. “For the last one year we have organized several protests and meetings in the villages. We were surprised to see the numbers coming for these meetings.”

Desperate to make inroads into the RLD’s Jat stronghold, the BJP also pitched in and organized rallies. One such rally was held in Qutba on November 5, 2012. It was attended by then party chief Nitin Gadkari, among other leaders. The BJP had aligned with the RLD in the last Lok Sabha elections. (RLD is now in the UPA, with Ajit Singh comfortably positioned as the civil aviation minister.) Although it was the RLD that fielded candidates, the support from BJP leaders was enough to cause unease among the Muslims — the other important constituent of the ‘magical alliance’ put together by Chaudhary Charan Singh, Ajit Singh’s father. “The presence of Narendra Modi in the rallies of RLD candidate Anuradha Chaudhary was enough to shoo Muslims away from the RLD,” says a local political analyst. 

With Modi at the electoral helm, this time the BJP plans to go solo. Hence, its desperation to enter the Jat stronghold: “Why should we enter into an alliance with the RLD? Is there any benefit? All the Jat-dominated seats are anyway contested by them. And they have no support base on any other seat,” says Sudhanshu Mittal of the BJP.

Maheshwari agrees that earliar the Jats would never support the VHP or the BJP. “They started coming in lately when we took up these issues which are close to their heart,” he says, happily. The VHP also capitalized on what they brand ‘Muslim appeasement’ schemes of the SP. “What do you think?  Hindu girls don’t feel bad when their Muslim classmates get Rs 30,000 as a freebie from the government?” asks Maheshwari. “Hindus are extremely angry in UP,” says a BJP functionary. “Jats would either support the RLD or a Jat candidate,” says a local Jat leader.

Many believe that the riots were designed by the SP regime and that they had a tacit alliance with the BJP

Meanwhile, the entire Western UP region, spanning Muzaffarnagar, Deoband, Saharanpur, Meerut and Baghpat, saw intense low-level tension simmering all of last year. There were several reported and unreported incidents. Things came to a boil with clashes in Soram village in August, 2013, where a Muslim boy was beaten up by Jats. An FIR was filed against the attackers, who were later arrested. The matter was communalized by BJP leaders Sanjeev Baliyan and Umesh Malik. Alam Khan of the SP also intervened. Although the matter was solved in a panchayat at Alam’s residence, the issue was left stewing with the attackers in jail.

In Shamli, where there were clashes between the Valmikis (Dalits) and Muslims, local BJP leader Hukum Singh stepped in and communalized the issue. The BJP targeted Superintendent of Police Abdul Hameed and accused him of being partisan. “He never took any action against the Muslims,” says Maheshwari. “Lately, the Valmikis are also coming to the BJP fold.”

“It has been happening for more than a year. Our students travelling through Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, were being beaten up routinely in trains and buses,” says Mufti Mohammadullah Qasmi, a functionary of the Darul Uloom, Deoband. “It intensified after July, 2013. One of our students was even thrown out of a moving train in August.” He says that the vice- chancellor had written letters to the state and the central governments. “I had got in touch with Ajit Singh after I was told of such incidents. He then met Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and apprised him of the situation,” says Kaukab Hameed. It is learnt that more RPF personnel were deployed in the trains after the intervention.

Copyright: P Anand

Hameed says that even in neighbouring Baghpat there were concerted attempts by diabolical political forces to fan violence. “During Ramazan there were a couple of incidents when unknown people riding motorbikes would tear the Quran and throw it on mosques,” he says. “There were many such incidents. But we diligently controlled them,” says Laxmi Singh, SSP, Baghpat. Police officials in Baghpat point out that the fault lies not just with the BJP/VHP, but also with the supporters of BSP’s Yaqoob Qureshi, a Muslim leader from neighbouring Meerut, whose role in these events is under investigation. “Most of the incidents were happening in areas with a BSP support base,” says a police official.

Meanwhile, in Muzaffarnagar, DM Kaushal Raj Sharma agrees that there is a pattern in the violence and polarization, and that the build-up has been happening for the last seven-eight months. “There is a practice that disputes are solved in panchayats. Probably, these incidents were not reaching the top administration,” he says.  

Many believe that the riots were designed by the SP regime and that they had a tacit alliance with the BJP. “If Muslims are saying that the SP was responsible for the riots, they are not really wrong,” says Hameed. “They stopped the VHP’s ‘Kosi parikrama’ and made propaganda out of it because it suited them. Here, they refused to act.”

Surely, the riots have upset the ‘calculations’ of the SP. In Baghpat, SP leader Somnath Shastri refused to contest after the riots. “Muslims will not vote for us after this. This has caused great damage,” says an SP leader close to Akhilesh Yadav.

Indeed, as of now, seemingly, the BJP may have won this battle using communal violence and hate politics. There is a clear paradigm shift in this part of UP. As Yograj Singh put it: “The Jats are speaking a different language now. All of them want Modi.” 

 

TEN QUESTIONS FOR THE CHIEF MINISTER

  • Why did the district police refuse to promptly arrest the killers of Shahnawaz? Why were the killers of Sachin and Gaurav allowed to flee? Why were the DM and SSP of Muzaffarnagar transferred in a hurry? 
  • Why were Muslim leaders allowed to hold a meeting on August 30 even when prohibitory orders were in place?
  • Why did the administration allow a Jat panchayat on August 31? Why did they not arrest the leaders against whom FIRs were filed on that day? 
  • Is the current DM lying when he says that he could not trace the organizers of the September 7 panchayat for three days from September 4 to September 6? 
  • Is it possible that the top police brass which was camping in Muzaffarnagar, including ADG, Law and Order, Arun Kumar, had no information or intelligence reports that there could be widespread violence in spite of a huge communal build-up? 
  • Why were people with weapons going for the September 7 mahapanchayat not stopped despite heavy presence of para-military forces when a similar ‘Hindu Sabha’ scheduled to be held in Deoband on the same day could be stopped with VHP president Ashok Singhal arrested on the Delhi-UP border? 
  • Why did the administration not impose an immediate curfew even when there were clashes in Basi Kalan village before the mahapanchayat? 
  • Were BKU’s Tikait brothers working at the behest of the SP government? Why were they not arrested despite the FIRs against them? 
  • Why was the UP government soft on Muslim leaders (Qadir Rana, Saeeduzzaman), including SP leaders (Rashid Siddiqui), who were present at the August 30 meeting? 
  • Why did Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav take 20 days to visit the riot hit areas?

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: OCTOBER 2013