How Samajwadi lost the plot ~ seema mustafa
Violence ripped through quiet, dusty villages of western Uttar Pradesh turning neighbor against neighbour as naïve and innocent villagers became tools for a dirty political conspiracy for the vote. Without even knowing it, the Jats and the Muslims who had lived in peace and harmony for decades in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining districts, and even voted together, were pitched against each other on the basis of lies and distortions. Over 40 were killed, countless injured, as villages fled for safety with at least 50,000 plus Muslims re-emerging after panicky flight in 41 relief camps strewn across the area.
The game was political, and the innocent and poor citizens of India the weapons used by the dirty conspirators to achieve their ends. In a play-out of what many now refer to as a ‘mini Gujarat’ (Amit Shah should know as he has been sent by Narendra Modi to Uttar Pradesh to ‘manage’ his election), days of hatemongering in the villages went unchecked by the state administration. Vitriolic speeches were made by unscrupulous politicians in a series of panchayats and mahapanchayats, the last culminating in early September with open endorsement to violence. Stories of Hindu girls being attacked by Muslim boys, totally without proof, were spread through the villages by a well-oiled machinery that has been responsible for some of the worst communal incidents in independent India.
In a surcharged atmosphere preceding violence, any little match can ignite the situation, and the same was visible in Muzaffarnagar with some notable differences. One, the violence spread within hours from the town into the villages, that does not usually happen as India&’s villages have always stood firm against communalism; two, villager killed villager attacking houses with lathis, daggers, swords and guns; and three, the intention was not to kill in large numbers but to displace a section of the population by driving them away, looting their meagre belongings and setting their hutments on fire.
Clearly the violence is being prompted by political interests, looking to win the largest number of seats from this crucial state in the forthcoming general elections. So then the question arises, even while the communal fires keep burning, who gains and who loses from this burst of violence in Muzaffarnagar that has still not subsided? It is easier to say who has lost. The Samajwadi party has lost, and the impact of Muzaffarnagar will spread across western UP, and indeed UP itself. The Akhilesh Yadav government has not been able to rid itself of the charge of conspiring with the BJP to polarise the vote along community lines; more so as till date he has failed to arrest a single BJP leader named in the FIRs for inciting hatred at the mahapanchayat; and using the social media to spread the worst kind of lies. These leaders, including BJP legislators, have been giving interviews to the media, and moving freely but the state government&’s police has failed in its task to find and arrest them.
After failing to prevent the violence despite sufficient information at hand; to control the violence till date where isolated incidents continue to be reported; and to rehabilitate the victims, all of whom are living on their own, under the open skies, without food, clothing and medical help; the Samajwadi party has now even failed to make the preliminary arrests.
The Muslims who are now refugees in their own district, without a home or succor or support, will not vote for the Samajwadi party. And given the fact that Muzaffarnagar&’s impact is widespread it will not be premature to say that Samajwadi party, instead of consolidating the Muslim votes because of the large number of incidents of communal violence across the state, will find itself isolated when the elections are held. The anger is running deep and finally the Muslims have seen through the callous exploitation of their sentiments by the Samajwadi party. The voices of the traumatised populace in the relief camps will rise to a crescendo as the elections approach: we will not vote for Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The Congress could have gained but will not, as it does not have a base vote and hence will not be seen as a winning force in what is becoming an increasingly important election between secular and communal India. Except for the occasional constituency where an individual Congress candidate is strong, the party will not attract the minority or for that matter the Jat vote as it has not been able to consolidate itself in UP over the years.
Ajit Singh and his Rashtriya Lok Dal will also not resurrect in the process. A great deal depends on how far and how much Ajit Singh is able to heal the divide, and use his organisation to bring Jats and Muslims back together. He will gain only if he is able to bridge the suspicion and the trust between the two communities, and channelise their support for his party. Conversely, he can vie with the BJP to consolidate the Jat vote over the still burning embers of Muzaffarnagar, and further communalise the situation in the hope that he will be able to beat the BJP at its own game. Given past experience, Ajit Singh will probably do neither, and sit back in the hope that some of the votes will flow his way. In other words, he will probably not emerge as a factor in the 2014 polls.
The two parties that will gain are the BJP that has actively worked for the polarisation; and the BSP by keeping its mantle clean of the current controversy. The BJP hopes at least to get the benefit of the communalised majority vote in western UP, and get more parliamentary seats as a result. It is clear that in its larger plan the RSS and the BJP are targeting Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to get the seats necessary for a majority, or at least near majority, in the Lok Sabha. And in this desperate game, every seat counts. If the communalisation succeeds, and this still remains to be seen really, the BJP will certainly gain.
But then what can eat into this assumption is the innate good sense of the people, as reflected in the two adjacent villages where the residents resisted the communal provocations, and joined hands to remain together and keep these divisive forces out. So the villager clearly is more canny than the town and city dweller, and as the embers cool, good sense might just prevail. Wishful thinking apart, at the moment the BJP seems to have got itself a head start in the district and adjoining areas at least, and will work on this to jump ahead.
The BSP is already being recognised in Muzaffarnagar as the secular alternative, particularly by the Muslims who in fleeing their homes, dropped their allegiance to the Samajwadi party as well. There is existing support for the BSP here as it holds the Muzaffarnagar parliamentary seat, although its MP Qadir Rana is being accused by the BJP and the Samajwadi party of arousing community passions. However, Mayawati has ensured that her party remains out of the current controversy, and apart from demanding the dismissal of the Akhilesh Yadav government, has chosen to stay out of the fracas. Given the strong percentage of Dalits in western UP and hence the presence of a base vote, the Muslims could be tempted to vote for her party across Western UP. And perhaps even the entire state.
All in all a grim situation, with votes counting more than people’s lives. A tragedy for secular and democratic India.
The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman