Who is responsible for Muzaffarnagar riots?

What has been happening in Muzaffarnagar during the past few days is both shameful and deplorable. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has rightly indicated that political parties could be behind this unusual flare-up in the region. Some other political activists have hinted that the riots are a result of the desire by political parties such as the BJP and Samajwadi Party to extend their influence in what is known as the Jat land of western UP, once a bastion of former Prime Minister Chaudhury Charan Singh.

The amazing fact is that the rural areas of Muzaffarnagar have never witnessed a riot of this scale and most of the times in the past, the communal tensions that have taken place in Western UP were confined to Meerut, Moradbabad, Aligarh and such areas. Muzaffarnagar has been a place where the Jats and the Muslims have by and large co-existed in peace and tranquility. This belt has also been the stronghold of Charan Singh’s family, now represented by his son and Union Minister, Ajit Singh. In the nineties, the BJP had made inroads into these strongholds and had challenged the supremacy of Ajit Singh’s party in the 17 Lok Sabha seats that were once controlled by his father Charan Singh.

Veterans would recall that Charan Singh had cobbled an alliance of various castes to knit together a winning combination which was described by analysts as AJGAR (Ahir, Jat, Gujjar and Rajput). Subsequently, he had enlarged his base by including Muslims and thus AJGAR became MAJGAR.

The USP of Charan Singh was that he never gave too many tickets to members of his own Jat community but accommodated others. This was because he believed that the Jats who were his followers would in any case support his nominees. The most well known Muslim face who was Charan Singh’s close aide was Rashid Masood from Saharanpur who is now with the Congress.

Western UP continues to be a battle zone for political parties who are trying to reclaim it from Ajit Singh and others who needless to say are not as influential as Charan Singh once was but are slowly yielding their territory to new forces. Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party even while being strong in other areas of UP have had to always struggle in the Jat dominated areas. Hard as he tried Mulayam could never implement the MAJGAR formula since he depended excessively on his own Ahir community. The BJP has done well in the past and hopes to recapture the imagination of the Jats whom it sees as natural rivals for the strong Yadav community which sides with Mulayam Singh.

It has also been the BJP’s desire to get Hindu votes while Mulayam has wooed the Muslims who have a lot of affection for him. There have also been allegations that Mulayam and BJP have a secret understanding and help each other in times of need. Although there is no evidence to indicate the involvement of either of the two parties, but the riots would certainly divide the region on caste and community lines. If that happens, the BJP will be the major gainer and many believe that Mulayam’s party may not be the beneficiary but could lose Muslim votes to others such as Ajit Singh, Mayawati and the Congress. How things play out is something that will be seen when the polls take place.

An alarming dimension of these clashes is that the UP administration has been once again found wanting in dealing with the communal situation. There are already demands for Akhilesh Yadav’s government’s dismissal and the young chief minister will have to do a lot more if he wishes to prevent a slide against his party.

Having covered many riots in the region—Meerut, Moradabad, Aligarh etc, I feel that the administration needs to keep the role of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of Uttar Pradesh under scrutiny. In the past, the PAC has been a party to the clashes and has acted against a particular community. The administration on its part must come out with a heavy hand against those involved regardless of whichever party they may be associated with. Politically, some political parties may gain but in these kinds of situation, the country suffers.

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