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”.