From the run-up to the general elections till date, there has been a distinct rise in communal politics that has resulted in communal polarization in UP, especially western UP.
The communal situation in UP had been more or less stable for some years but ever since the Samajwadi Party came to power there has been a pronounced rise in communal politics in the State. This is evident from not just what members of the ruling Samajwadi Party but also the emerging BJP and the sulking Congress say. The BSP is not very far behind either but given the drubbing it received in the recent elections, it is waiting on the bylines for a situation to emerge where it can try and win back the Dalit votes, which for now have been split in favour of the BJP and other parties.
BJP sees a serious chance to capitalize on the negative sentiments prevailing against the Samajwadi Party in the State and is leaving no chance to swing the volatile situation.
Media’s ‘hyper’ role
What is worrying is the increasing use of rape as a political instrument by all political parties to turn public opinion. This is a very dangerous trend that can blow out of control at any given time. The recent case of a 20-year old woman from Meerut claiming to have been gang-raped in a madrasa and being forced to convert to Islam, is a case in point where the incident could have triggered off a major communal riot in western UP. While the police are investigating the matter, it was timely intervention by the district administration that kept the situation from getting out of control.
An unfortunate fallout of the spread of social media has been its misuse in spreading deliberate communal rumours at a rapid pace with gullible people increasingly being influenced by these. Active use of mobile phones has seen communally instigating pictures and videos go into hyper circulation during times of tension.
In such situations, all political parties are guilty of stoking tensions by making irresponsible remarks in the media and they are provided full encouragement by the respective party high command. This has to be reined in. The Samajwadi Party has been claiming that the sudden rise in communal tension triggered by individual incidents, are all deliberate acts by rival political parties. This may or may not be true but it does seem that there is a trend emerging.
Earlier, the brutal rape of two sisters in Badaun almost sparked off another riot. While the police did respond quickly by arresting five persons, it now turns out that the five persons arrested may well be innocent, with all five having cleared the lie-detector test. This raises several critical questions. Who raped the sisters? Was it planned, if so, by who? Was it a communal act of violence or an individual act devoid of communal intent? On what basis did the police arrest the five and announce the same as case solved? The people need answers.
And now the Sikhs
The situation in western UP, stretching from Meerut till Muzzafarnagar and Saharanpur, is stable but tense. Earlier there was polarization being stoked between Hindus and Muslims and now the recent incident in Saharanpur shows that there has been a deliberate attempt to bring the Sikhs into the communal conflict. The trends are there to see but there seems to be no attempt at the Central level to call for an all-party meeting and get all parties to unequivocally condemn the violence and jointly commit to rein in the communal elements within their own parties and to refrain from further stoking of tensions.
The Muzzafarnagar riots were triggered by an eve-teasing event that went out of control to become a communal riot with political backing. It took a fence to be constructed that triggered the Meerut riots. And now we have the current gang-rape and attempt at forced conversion that almost triggered yet another riot.
In all this, the conduct of Samajwadi Party and its Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav in particular, has not come out in positive light. Akhilesh Yadav was sworn in amidst a lot of optimism amongst his party that the educated and articulate young leader will be able to enthuse the party ranks with a new perspective and direction. However, Akhilesh Yadav seems to be living under his father’s shadow and has not shown the resolve to act decisively as would be expected from a Chief Minister.
He has been hesitant or unable to rein in his own party stalwarts including his father, his uncle and the strongman Azam Khan, all of whom have been expressing their own independent opinion freely to the press, much to the embarrassment of a hapless Chief Minister. This has only resulted in the Opposition attacking the ruling party at every possible occasion and now the general public opinion is increasingly turning against the ruling party. The traditional Muslim vote bank that had been supporting the Samajwadi Party, has been largely eroded with the minority community at the crossroads on which political direction to take.
The country needs answers and the State government must come forward with full disclosure on the current situation.
Sulking Govt and politicians
Unfortunately, the State government has not been forthcoming in releasing information regarding the cause, casualties, action taken against derelict officials, in the recent riots. In fact, the State government has turned down a RTI request for information on the above, stating that questions relating to riots could not be asked even in the State Assembly or legislative Council. This is strange given that the responsibility of any government is to initiate a fair probe into such incidents and come out with a full report that states all facts. This is easier said than done, as no political party in power is willing to take the political risk, as there is a lot at stake in India’s biggest political battleground.
Unfortunately in India, there seems to be an unwritten rule to hide facts from the people under the guise of maintaining communal harmony. In all States, there has been very little attempt to order a fair probe and come out with a White Paper on each communal riot, within a reasonable time, so that people in the country get to know the truth and steps be taken to ensure that the same does not happen again.
The only stumbling block to what should be an obvious act, is the resistance from the political parties themselves, as no political party wants to face the political fallout as a result of the truth coming out. And this has been India’s bane and shame.
We love to shout over the rooftop that we are the world’s largest democracy but the reality is that democratic institutions and practices have been frequently compromised in order to seize political power and at the cost of the common man, who continues to face the consequences of the game of ‘thrones,’ power and pelf that the political parties continue to play.