Muzaffarnagar riots: On the ground, Muslims take stock of 'a new situation'

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 13 2013, 14:53pm hrs
Muzaffarnagar clashesSecurity personnel keep vigil as people are seen in a shop during the relaxed hours of curfew in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar. (PTI photo)

Amid the violence of a scale these areas of UP have never seen before, there is restlessness in the Muslim community about adjusting to a new situation and it is not just about displacement, disposession of assets, or attacks .

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Several Muslims familiar with the area and its dynamics point out that in these areas seen as communal flashpoints, including in 1947 and 1992, what has been consistent is a political sync between Jat and Muslim interests. The rise of Charan Singh, his family and the Rashtriya Lok Dal, and even the success of farm lobbyist Mahender Singh Tikait, owed a lot to the two communities sticking together.

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Kawkab Hamid, four times an MLA since 1984 from Baghpat, is touring affected villages, hoping people can soon go back to their homes. I am amazed why 500 people in the VHPs yatra were deemed fit to be banned by this government and yet thousands allowed to congregate at the maha panchayat, Hamid says. It is clear that the BJP is trying to gain mileage but what was the state government doing

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The sudden violence is being seen as an attempt to break the age-old Jat-Muslim equation. The BJP is seen as the beneficiary, but there are differing opinions whether the Samjawadi Party, publicly a rival, is helping the BJP push the mood. Must Read: Few choices on flight to safety

Former RLD MP Mahmood Madani, also the head of one faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, was in the region. Unlike his rival and uncle Arshad Madani, who has been hesitant about critcising the SP, Mahmood Madani has gone all out against Mulayam Singh Yadav, writing to the prime minister that the state government should be dismissed.

It has not been about any communal riot but about gangs of VHP and Bajrang Dal people firing in villages; clearing the villages has been the aim, he said. If the government could not see it coming after the mahapanchayat, originally a Jat khap panchayat, was hijacked by the BJP as a save Hindus panchayat, then they clearly allowed it to happen, wanting to pretend to be saviours of the community.

This theory about the government having allowed VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres to run amok, so that the SP could later apply the balm, has gained some currency here, especially among senior Muslim workers of the Bhatatiya Kisan Union. One member said, This is happening as the SP never got seats here. It was either the RLD or the BSP and Muslims voted with them. Charan Singh would never have been PM but for that. It helps the SP to go for this area and allow insecurity to develop so that they can then play patrons.

Says Delhi-based academic Shams-ul Islam, It is almost a Kalyan Singh moment again for the SP. Worse, Mulayam is playing into the hands of Narendra Modi. The SP hoped that by going easy on VHP and RSS cadres, it could get away with simmering communal tension but not riots, and that Muslims would be grateful to it. But this was akin to creating a monster and it spun out of control. It can only hurt Mulayam now. The BJP thinks it need not worry about the Muslim vote, so it is trying to just get Hindus to vote en bloc.

Journalist Masoom Moradabadi sees a deep, twin conspiracy. How come it is in those UP areas where Mulayam does not have a firm foothold that communal trouble is being sought to be fomented It was in the Faizabad region for the yatra sometime back, and now it is in western UP. In Faizabad the Congress had got some seats; here the RLD has been dominant. Why did Mulayam meet Ashok Singhal of the VHP for two hours and make an issue about the yatra

Mulayams calling card of late has been his unpredictability in switching positions on various national issues. Within his core support base are several of UPs Muslims who dont see these frequent switches as a virtue. They cite Mulayams meeting with L K Advani secretly in 1999 (as written by Advani in his autobiography) and then his tryst with Kalyan in 2007 as examples of untrustworthiness.

Mulayams party this time has come to power on several promises, among these being 18 per cent reservation for Muslims. But, say several Muslims, he has been unable to get even basic things done, such as a state minorities commission. Minorities have special rights under the Constitution but this SP government has deprived Muslims of these rights to help communal forces, says Aligarh-based Prof Razaullah Khan, who had got together people to demand a UP minorities commission. Activist N Jamal Ansari had said at the same meeting, A writ petition was filed in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, which has ordered the UP government to constitute the minority commission within two months. But why did such a situation arise

There are, however, several willing to cut the party some slack. Of course there has been administrative ineptness, but we must not lose focus on who or what caused the riots, says Lucknow-based Hisam Siddique, journalist and once a close associate of Mulayam. The VHP-BJP cadres see this year as the one chance to get votes. Its about consolidating the Hindu vote, not about the Muslim vote. Lets wait and watch.

At over 20,000, the highest number of fleeing villagers have set up camp in Kandla. Many have also fled to Khairana, Dharampur and Basai Kalan. Police have formed teams who are trying to convince them to return home.

It is locals who are looking after the campers. There has been no support from the government yet and people in this town and surrounding villages are donating essential supplies, says Samiullahah, who runs the madrasa in Khairana.