Is there a Muzaffarnagar-like plot behind Kasganj violence in Uttar Pradesh?
With the next general elections not very far, it is time for the lumpen element to be let loose by their mentors.
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When communal violence broke out last week in Kasganj town of western Uttar Pradesh, the first suspicion that arose was to find out whether there was a pattern behind it - a design similar to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that left at least 69 dead and rendered thousands homeless.
What gave credence to the theory was the timing of the incident that was quite similar to the Muzaffarnagar riots - about a year before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. And if, at the end of the day, Muzaffarnagar helped to polarise the electorate, then why would the beneficiaries not try out the same tactics in 2019?
It was a minor incident of eve-teasing that snowballed into a full-throated series of Hindu-Muslim rioting in Muzaffarnagar that spread across to its four adjoining districts, but not without eventually paying rich political dividends to the BJP.
Security personnel keeping vigil in a shop during the relaxed hours of curfew in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar. (Credit: PTI file photo)
Much like Muzaffarnagar, the initial spurt of violence has been contained in Kasganj - thanks to the new state police chief OP Singh, who did not hesitate to give marching orders to the district superintendent of police, because of his failure to take any preventive action. The whole town knew of the brewing trouble except the local administration. A stitch in time could have saved the situation from taking an ugly turn, prevented the cruel death of a youth and saved another from gruesome loss of an eye.
It is still too early to presume that violence will not return to Kasganj in the same manner as it did in Muzaffarnagar. After all, several BJP leaders and the party’s spokespersons are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that embers of Kasganj re-ignite. The manner in which the killing of 19-year old Chandan Gupta is being exploited by the political class clearly reflects that the mourning is not without devious design. The killing is to be condemned and abhorred and the killers deserve the most deterrent punishment. But using the dead to serve dangerous political designs too deserve equal condemnation.
Quite unabashedly, the saffron brigade is out to build a façade that the clashes took place because Muslims objected to raising of "Vande Mataram" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai" by motorcycle-borne youths during a procession, which was taken out jointly by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists, observing Republic Day celebrations through what they called the “Tiranga Yatra”.
According to impartial locals in Kasganj, the clashes were sparked off essentially because the processionists halted their bikes in the middle of a Muslim-dominated locality, Baddu Nagar, raising slogans, “Agar Hindustan mein rehna hai toh Vande Mataram kehna hai; nahi toh Pakistan jaana hai.” Cries of “Pakistan Murdabad” were also raised in an obvious bid to insinuate that the locality was some kind of “mini-Pakistan”.
The fact of the matter is that a group of Muslim youths had organised a flag-hoisting ceremony in that very locality to mark the Republic Day. The 200 VHP-ABVP bikers insisted on driving through the flag-hoisting venue to which the Muslim group objected. That was enough to spark off a free for all with stone-pelting, flinging of acid bottles and finally exchange of fire that led to the killing of Chandan Gupta, whose father is now demanding him to be declared as a “martyr”.
The searches carried out in Baddu Nagar led to unearthing of an unlicenced pistol as well as some other lethal weapons. But the bikers went unchecked as they drove away and melted in the rest of the town. As many as 126 arrests have helped to bring the situation under control, at least for the time being. Thanks to UP governor Ram Naik’s scathing remark - “Kasganj is a matter of shame” - that the Yogi administration was compelled into taking some serious steps.
What has cast further aspersions on the working of the government is a Facebook post by an IAS officer currently posted as district magistrate of Bareilly, which lies in close proximity to Kasganj. “A weird trend is being set by miscreants who forcibly take out procession through a Muslim locality and insist on raising anti-Pakistan slogans. Are they trying to say that those living in such localities are Pakistanis? This was tried in a village in Bareilly also, and all in the name of nationalism," was what Barrielly DM Raghvendra Vikkram Singh sought to point out. And that speaks a lot about the state of affairs in India’s most-populous state, which was primarily responsible for propelling BJP to an unprecedented win in 2014.
With the next general elections not very far, it is time for the lumpen element to be let loose by their mentors. While there is no dearth of such forces on both sides, there can be no denying that with an aggressive saffron-clad leader on the hot seat, it is quite natural for his ranks to be throwing their weight around. After all, they have seen their peer taking the same virulent route to ride on to the chief minister’s chair.