Lucknow: About a year ago, allegedly one-sided action by the police had led to fierce Hindu- Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas which could be quelled only after the intervention of the Army.
A similar situation is slowly building up in Moradabad where short-sighted action by the police and their subsequent ineptitude had turned a simple dispute into a communal conflict that threatens to engulf adjoining areas as well. If the Muzaffarnagar riots had led to religious polarization a few months before the Lok Sabha election, the Moradabad incident has the potential to further consolidate this polarization.
The incident has the potential to be exploited for electoral gains in view of the coming by-elections in the state. While the BJP looks at strengthening its hold among the Hindus and Dalits in western UP, for the SP there appears not much choice except consolidating its support among the minority community, especially in view of the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha election.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Moradabad, Dharamvir, in an uncharacteristically political statement, on Saturday blamed the BJP for the tense situation in Kanth, and said that BJP MP Sarvesh Singh had wanted to “polarise the situation ahead of the by-elections to be held in the state.” He said the BJP’s mahapanchayat call had only added to the already volatile situation.
However, the BJP says the police took “one-sided” action against the people of one community rather than settling the issue when there was time.
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav cautioned the BJP against provoking the people and said the government would come down on the miscreants with a heavy hand.
Meanwhile Congress spokesman Satyadev Tripathi has alleged that the incident was a result of the “conspiracy” between the BJP and the SP. He added that the state government should refrain from “one-sided” action in such cases.
The Moradabad incident pertains to the removal of a loudspeaker from the Sant Ravidas temple in Akbarpur Chaderi in Kanth. The temple attracts a large number of Jatav devotees and the loudspeaker, according to locals, had been there for several years. In early June, however, people of the Muslim community had in a written representation demanded that it be removed.
The administration did not try to solve the dispute by involving elders of the two communities, and instead on Thursday 26 June, a police team broke open the lock on its gate, barged into the temple and removed the loudspeaker. According to eye-witnesses, the policemen thrashed men and women who protested, and later arrested about a dozen people including women.
The next day (Friday 27 June) a demonstration was held in main Kanth market and the crowd blocked the Moradabad-Hardwar road. The crowd was demanding that the loudspeaker be reinstalled and the arrested people be released.
Amid the inaction of the police and administration, some people announced that they would install the loudspeaker themselves, and then the police cracked down on them. In the ensuing fracas several were injured. It is reported that the police went berserk after this, dragged people out of their homes and arrested them.
Incidentally, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident, saying that people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes used to offer prayers in the Sant Ravidas temple for years. Speaking in the state Legislative Council, BSP leader Naseemuddin Siddiqui condemned the police action against the protestors and women.
It is learnt that after 26 June, district and police officials tried to win over a section of the BJP leaders and even the Moradabad MP Sarvesh Kumar Singh, to come up with a compromise formula.
However, the situation took an ugly turn as this news spread and the hardline Hindu Jagaran Manch took the matter into its own hands.
The BJP then jumped into the fray and called for a mahapanchayat on this issue on 4 July. Moradabad MP Sarvesh Kumar Singh, Amroha MP Kunwar Singh Tanwar, Sambhal MP Satyapal Saini, Rampur MP Nepal Singh, MLA Sangeet Som and their supporters were briefly detained when they were arriving for the mahapanchayat.
Sangeet Som is also an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots. Moradabad district magistrate Chandrakant was seriously injured Friday when a mob threw stones at policemen after the BJP leaders’ arrest. The official was sent to hospital for a serious head and eye injury. BJP supporters fought pitched battles at Kanth as police carried out lathi charge, lobbed teargas shells and shot blanks in the air to disperse the crowds which had stopped some trains.
Sangeet Som later said that the matter could have been resolved if people of both communities had been taken into confidence for a solution. “The Samajwadi Party government is pursuing divisive politics and wants to divert attention from the poor electricity and crime situation in the state,” he said. The loudspeaker, he said, had been there for a long time and was not used during namaz and there was no dispute over it so far.
State BJP president Laxmikant Bajpai alleged the police action was “one-sided” action and the administration had not taken any action against the ”illegal construction” of a religious structure in the village. “It had been decided at a meeting with district officials a few days ago that the administration will take action on both sides, stop the illegal construction activity and take down the loudspeaker.
Yet, only the loudspeaker was taken down and those who protested were brutally beaten up. The decision for holding a mahapanchayat was taken five days ago. What was the administration doing in these five days?” he asked.
The district administration was more intent on stopping the mahapanchayat rather than solving the issue, he said. The state BJP has constituted a four-member team that will look into the incident and submit a report to the party leadership.
Updated Date: Jul 06, 2014 12:19 PM