Two months after communal riots in Muzaffarnagar killed dozens and left thousands homeless, the farm-rich region in western Uttar Pradesh remains on the edge.
Two months after communal riots in Muzaffarnagar killed dozens and left thousands homeless, the farm-rich region in western Uttar Pradesh remains on the edge. A senior official frankly admitted that it will take a long time for the return of normalcy.
In the last one month alone, five incidents of violence have left five people dead. Local officials now worry that even petty crimes such as “eve teasing” and chain snatching are being given a communal colour.
A month back, a former soldier was found shot dead along with a friend in a village in Saharanpur, a district adjoining Muzaffarnagar. Villagers had alleged that the two were killed by Muslims.
A month of investigation into testimonies revealed that the killings were executed by the ex-soldier’s son out of greed — he wanted to grab the Rs.10 lakh awarded as compensation for riot victims.
Last week, a couple was waylaid while returning from a doctor’s clinic in Muzaffarnagar. When she resisted, the woman was shot dead. It was billed a communal crime, and residents squatted on the road and disrupted traffic.
A minor girl in one of the relief camps was raped last week. Two sides fought a pitched battle in Shahpur village. A few youths later fired at a doctor’s car while a youngster was murdered in Valli village.
Additional Director General of Police Mukul Goel said that many cases of communal incidents have been “found to be routine crimes”.
While official vigil has been stepped up to ensure minimal crimes, officials rue that the religious divide in Muzaffarnagar city as well as the sprawling countryside now runs very deep.
While locals blame it on the long-standing antipathy between the Maliks (Jat sub-community) and Muslims, officials say the political leadership is responsible too.
A senior police official said that while most senior police officers in the region during the September riots were transferred or suspended, the IAS and PCS lobby escaped with no punishment.
Muslims along with Yadav have for long been considered the backbone of the Samajwadi Party.
But with Muslims now angry over the way they were attacked while police looked the other way, there is visible resentment against the Samajwadi Party. Its leaders are accused of interfering in official work at every stage.
Vijay Bahadur Pathak, spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit, says the Uttar Pradesh government’s failure is more than that of the district administration in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Shamli.
“What do you expect from officials when they have to take every single, small step after diktat from Lucknow?” he asked.
With more than 1,800 Muslim families staying put in the 28-odd relief camps set up by the administrations and in Islamic seminaries, officials say the fear of being targeted is still writ large on the locals.
Compounding the problem is the rehabilitation package of the Akhilesh Yadav government which has doled out Rs.90 crore.
While these families are still in the relief camps, more than 5,000 people have reportedly returned to them, lured by the compensation offered by the government.
Several panchayats came under an umbrella and met in Rasoolpur village Thursday and warned the state government of an “aar paar ki ladai” (fight to the finish).
A worried government has since sent senior officials to the area, mandating them to bring the situation under control.
But with general elections only months away, and political parties fishing in troubled waters, many feel that unless there is a political will, Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining regions will keep simmering.
-By Mohit Dubey, IANS