In what is likely to emerge as another controversial move that could further the communal divide, the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh has reportedly started the process of withdrawing 131 cases linked to the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.
While the BJP has maintained it is withdrawing only the false cases linked to the September 2013 riots, in which at least 62 people had died and thousands lost their homes, Opposition parties have termed it an attempt to offer 'amnesty' to rioters.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal to Twitter to vent out his frustration over the move, saying that the decision gives the message that the "state will protect murderers and not victims of violence".
State to protect murderers not victims of violence . That is the message in Yogi's decision to withdraw 131 riot cases . Wither rule of law?
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) March 22, 2018
A report in the The Indian Express claimed to have examined documents, which show that a large portion of the 131 cases which are being withdrawn "include charges under Indian Penal Code sections related to 'heinous' crimes with a minimum punishment of seven years in jail".
Of them, 13 involve murder under Section 302, 11 involve an attempt to murder under Section 307, 85 involve mischief by fire or explosive substances under Section 436, 55 have charges of dacoity under Section 395 and two of kidnapping Under Section 364 of the Indian Penal Code.
Besides, the report also claimed that there are "16 cases under Section 153A on charges of promoting enmity on religious grounds, and two under Section 295A for deliberate and malicious acts intended to insult a religion or religious beliefs".
In January, a report claimed that the Uttar Pradesh government is mulling withdrawing nine cases against BJP leaders in connection with the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
According to the report, Raj Singh, Special Secretary, Uttar Pradesh Department of Justice, had written a letter to the district magistrate seeking information on 13 points, including whether the cases — filed against UP minister Suresh Rana, former Union minister Sanjiv Balyan, MP Bhartendu Singh, MLA Umesh Malik and party leader Sadhvi Prachi — could be withdrawn in public interest. The letter also sought the opinion of the Muzaffarnagar senior superintendent of police.
It is alleged that Rana and Singh along with BJP MLA Sangit Som and a man identified as Chandra Pal participated in a mahapanchayat and incited violence through their speeches in the last week of August 2013.
Although it's not clear if the nine cases against the BJP leaders are also among the 131 cases which are being withdrawn by the Adityanath government, a report in February had said that Singh had written another letter to district magistrates in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar seeking details of 131 cases linked to the riots.
According to Hindustan Times, in February (and before as well) this year, Balyan, had met Adityanath seeking withdrawal of 402 cases registered largely against Hindus during the riots.
Reports claim that a total of 503 cases were registered against around 1,455 persons (according to some the number is above 2,000) at police stations in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli by the then Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh. The cases were filed against both Hindus and Muslims.
The communal riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar in September 2013 and later spread to the neighbouring Shamli.
Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 11:03 AM