The communal fire in Muzaffarnagar: An appeal from Aman Ekta Manch

Stop Communal Violence, Give Peace a Chance
Stop Communal Violence, Give Peace a Chance

Kaval village is about three kilometres away from Jansath in Muzaffarnagar district. Hindus and Muslims have always lived in amity in this village, whose population is around 15,000. On 27 August 2013, Shahnavaz, a youth from Kaval, had an argument with Gaurav, a Jat youth from Malikpura, a village two kilometres distant. Media reports and rumour have linked this argument with “eve teasing”. However, at this time there is no evidence of any such association. The Uttar Pradesh D.I.G. (Law and Order), Rajkumar Vishwakarma, has said that there is no evidence of “eve teasing” having been the cause.

Around 1 p.m. that day, Gaurav arrived at the centre of Kaval village with his relative Sachin. The argument took a physical form, with Gaurav and Sachin stabbing Shahnavaz, who died in a short while. The two assailants could not run away. A crowd collected to beat them and the two died after sharp edged weapons were used. After the deaths of the three youths, senior officials of the Muzaffarnagar administration came to Kaval and promised an impartial enquiry.

So far, the matter was seen as a fatal fight between two groups. The police registered the FIRs of both sides. Family members of Gaurav and Sachin were also implicated in the death of Shahnawaz. At the same time, the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police, Manjul Saini, were transferred out of Muzaffarnagar.

Members of the Hindu community regarded these steps as showing bias. They were further incensed when, the next day, photos of the two Jat youths appeared in the newspaper, with prominence given to the caption that they were killed when they objected to the teasing of their sister.

At this point a video was released by Sangeet Som, a BJP MLA. This video showed Muslims putting to death a youth and was described as a recording made in Muzaffarnagar. It came to be known later that the recording had actually been made in Sialkot two years earlier. However, being said to show Muzaffarnagar it had been sent to nearly all the mobile phones in the area, and the actions of local leaders served to put Hindus and Muslims against one another.

There were small meetings of the Hindu community. The Muslim community had a public meeting on 30 August which was chaired by Qadir Rana, MP of the BSP. The next day there was a large meeting of the Hindu community.Anger grew with every passing day. On 5 September the BJP called a bandh across Muzaffarnagar. Even a week after the incident the district administration had made no attempt to curb the spreading of rumours.

Even without evidence of “eve teasing”, on 7 September and with the aid of political parties, khap panchayats called a Beti Bachao meeting which was attended by many. A crowd of people going towards the panchayat set fire to the car of a Muslim family and beat up another family. When news of this spread, people heading towards the panchayat were attacked in Bassi village. Then a Muslim youth was beaten to death at the panchayat venue. By this time Hindus and Muslims were ranged against one another.

Rumours spread over social media made the atmosphere more anarchic. People believed these rumours and attacked one another. There was much violence in many villages.

Two conclusions are inescapable: the local administration failed to gauge the seriousness of the situation; and leaders put people against one another by the spreading of rumours. Votes have now been polarised not just in Muzaffarnagar but across the whole of western U.P. A small incident has grown into a communal conflagration. Official estimates are that more than ten thousand people are living in government-run refugee camps and around fifty thousand people have been compelled to flee from their homes.

The father of the Hindu boys who were killed said, “We do not want that there should be bloodshed. While the corpses of our sons lay before us we appealed to people to control their anger. We said that no other innocents should be killed.”

It seems that a planned conspiracy was behind the transformation of a minor quarrel into a full blown conflagration. The widespread use of weapons and the looting and destruction of homes clearly tells us that the “riots” had been planned and prepared for and that only a convenient excuse was needed. All this is reminiscent of what happened in Gujarat in 2002.

That the Kaval incident was used as the spark for mass violence makes it clear that so far the government of U.P. has failed to deal with communal conspiracies. Perhaps this is not a mere administrative failure but the outcome of a carefully planned political strategy.

Since the coming to power of the Samajwadi Party there have been more than a hundred instances of religious violence. It is clear that the SP and the BJP are engaged in consolidating their vote bases for the general election of 2014: and there are indications that more such violence may be expected in the State.

We, ordinary citizens, through the Aman Ekta Manch, appeal to the people of Uttar Pradesh and the entire country to recognise the forces behind this fresh flaring up of communalism. We must work towards restoring normalcy to the lives of the people of U.P. We must also be alert and combat the spreading of hatred over the social media and by other means. The responsibility for containing the fire that is spreading from Muzaffarnagar rests with the Central Government and the Government of U.P. It is our duty as citizens

 

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