Did the riots in western Uttar Pradesh start by a mere scuffle between two religious groups?
No, especially if there is an iota of truth in the stories, narrated in a hushed tone by the students of International Islamic Institute Darul Ulum Deoband. The institute is located in Saharanpur and is less than 38 km from Muzaffarnagar, where one of the worst riots have taken place in the recent history of Uttar Pradesh.
Tensions were brewing long before the violence finally broke out.
"The students of Deoband travel between Meerut to Deoband (Saharanpur) and were facing severe atrocities, while travelling in trains on that route. Every day, the students were being beaten, thrown out of trains, their skull caps were being thrown, their beards were being shaved - they were being harassed and insulted in all possible ways", reveals a group of students, not ready to reveal their identities.
The institute asked the students not to react.
"We filed many FIRs but if any of the students had reacted you can understand what would have happened. A reaction from Deoband would have caused unrest in the whole country. This was the only reason we kept quiet", says an official of Deoband.
However, concerned with the safety of the students, the Deoband administration wrote letters to General Manager Railways and the Union Minister Railways.
"The officials brushed their shoulders from the problem saying they have 400 policemen and more than 350 trains, it is not possible for them to provide security in all the trains", says a source at Deoband.
On not getting any relief from the railways, a high profile delegation led by the deputy vice chancellor of Deoband tried to meet the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.
"It was Mr Shinde's birthday and he was busy in a party therefore he did not meet the delegation. We left a memorandum for him but till date we have not received even an acknowledgement from his office", says an official at Deoband.
"This frustration and harassment turned into violence when two boys from our community were killed after the Maha Panchayat. You cannot sit idle when your people are being killed and that started the riots", says the official. A few at Deoband also said that some political parties were trying to repeat the Gujarat formula. They wanted the community to react so that the hatred flares up, they said.
However, whether it is Darul Uloom Deoband in Saharanpur or Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow, another Islamic studies institute - none blames the Samajwadi Party (SP) government for what has happened in Western Uttar Pradesh.
"The government did all it could to stop the violence but other political parties were helping in aggravating the situation", said Maulana Saidur Rahman Azmi, the principal of Nadwatul Ulama, in conversation with Firstpost.
Maulana Azmi blamed the local administration for the situation, "The local administration was involved and played into the hands of other political parties which are trying to destroy the peace in the state for their vested interest. It is cheap politics. I have the knowledge that people were paid to indulge in violence but I cannot name anyone as I do not have proof. The administration kept the government in the dark."
Many Muslim leaders met SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav who expressed his helplessness in controlling such situations.
"It is the police deployment policy which is to be blamed. Now they are posted in the same place where they belong to. This was the reason they did not obey the orders of the district magistrate." Mulayam told the Muslim leaders. That is how the Mahapanchayat was allowed.
According to Maulana Azmi, many prominent leaders are involved in the incident. Even ministers who have relations with the Jaat community are showing how powerful they are.
"The local Jaat community is even hindering the army from performing its duties," he said.
However, the incident has created factions among the Muslim leaders. There are some who blame the government for mishandling the incident.
Even the Samajwadi Party's poster boy Azam Khan is not happy the way the government has handled the incident. An angry Azam decided not to attend the party's national executive that is taking place in Agra these days and in which the party is to formulate its strategy for the 2014 elections. Incidentally, Azam Khan, the minister of Parliamentary Affairs is also in charge of district Muzaffarnagar, where the violence broke.
Also, Ittehad-e-Millat Council chief Tauquir Raza Khan, who is also an Advisor, Handloom and Cloth Industry, with a state minister status, has resigned from his post. According to him, his organisation supported SP on certain conditions, which included keeping the communal forces away. But, after this gruesome violence that has taken place in Muzaffarnagar, which the government failed to contain, he has no right to stay in his position and be a mute spectator.
Another organisation Khudai Khidmatgar has blamed the Akhilesh Yadav government saying, "since the SP started ruling in UP, it has resulted in wider range of communal violence in various places. The situation has been further flamed by some anti social elements, which the government is well aware of."
In fact, since the time Akhilesh Yadav government has come to power, the state has witnessed more than 50 big and small communal tensions in different parts of Uttar Pradesh.
The most alarming aspect of the recent violence is its penetration to the rural areas which is new.
The situation has caused a concern for Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) that had been writing success stories in the area by using the combination of Jaat and Muslim votes to its benefit. The party state president Munna Singh Chauhan says, "The moment situation stabilises in the area, we will start meetings with the people in rural areas".
The situation has not brought a positive message for the ruling SP either. The party's Muslim youth leader Abu Asim Azmi categorically pointed it out during the SP national executive, "The laptops or other welfare schemes of the government will be meaningless if Muslims do not feel safe in the state. All efforts to contain them in SP fold would be useless if such incidents take place repeatedly."
However, despite the grave tension and unrest, the vice chancellor Darul Uloom Deoband Maulana Mufti Abul Quasim Nomai has appealed to public at large to maintain peace and calm - "First it is necessary to save people's lives and restore peace in the area. The government should make all efforts to maintain peace and normalcy."
Even the principal Nadwatul Ulama Maulana Azmi said that "the nation would progress only when the two communities grow together amiably."
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Updated Date: Sep 12, 2013 13:47:17 IST