Reaction without action
UP is a critical state in the Lok Sabha, because of the number of seats it has. So, issues which move the UP electorate will be critical to who forms the next central government. It seems that large-scale corruption, economic development, and safety of women may not be the main issues in next year’s general elections. In the last state election in UP there was a 6% swing in favour of the SP, 4% against the BSP, 2% against the BJP, 2% in favour of the Congress, and 2% against other parties. As a result, most parties need to change the electoral mood. The two decade old zombie issue of Ayodhya shambled slowly into the newspapers and quickly disappeared at the end of August. Now it seems that a decade-old method may polarize voters.
September 7, 2013
A day after the Centre issued an alert to seven states including Uttar Pradesh against communal polarization leading to violence ahead of 2014 general elections, fresh violence broke out in Muzaffarnagar. On Saturday nine people, including a reporter of a TV news channel, were killed and 34 were injured.
Curfew has been imposed in the areas under three police stations and additional security forces were rushed to the district, which has been simmering for past 10 days following violence in Kawal village in which three people were killed. Late on Saturday night, Army was called in to help the district administration for maintenance of law and order. All districts in the state have also been put on the high alert after the incident.
Stray incidents of violence were also reported during the strike. Later, police booked 229 people, including a local BJP MLA, Sangit Some, for allegedly sharing on the internet sensitive photos related to the recent Kawal incident.
A fake video of a mob beating two youths to death also surfaced in YouTube
September 9, 2013
The Hindu writes:
Uttar Pradesh was on Monday struggling to contain communal violence as the death toll in Muzaffarnagar and other areas rose to 31, with authorities arresting 200 rioters and stopping Union Minister Ajit Singh and BJP MPs including Ravi Shankar Prasad from visiting the troubled district.
“The death toll in the violence in Muzaffarnagar and other areas has climbed to 31,” the Principal Secretary Home R.M. Srivastava told PTI in Lucknow even as curfew remained in force in riot-hit areas and army staged flag march for the second consecutive day.
Violence spread to neighbouring district of Shamli where a 40-year-old Imam of a mosque, Maulana Umar Din, was shot dead, Shamli District Magistrate P.K. Singh said.
Daily Bhaskar wrote:
According to police officials, one of the inception points for the violence is a “fake video” posted on YouTube and other social networks that wrongly claims to show two men being lynched by a mob in the state.
Home Secretary Kamal Saxena told a press conference on Sunday that the “fake video” posted online was “at least two years old and appears not to have been filmed in Uttar Pradesh”.
The video entitled ‘killing of Hindu youths by Muslim mob while they were protecting the honor of their sister’ went viral on internet and also started circulating through mobile phones.
A media report said on Sunday, “The video is originally from Pakistan of infamous 2010 killing of two brothers in Sialkot Punjab province by lynching mob who misidentified them as dacoits.”
ET implies a political hand in this report:
The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas in western Uttar Pradesh have unsettled the social alliance between Jats and Muslims, a development that can impact the political calculations of the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Jat community had earlier voted in tandem with the numerically-preponderant Muslims. But communal fault lines have sharpened after the Saturday riots that followed an attack on a 1.5 lakh strong ‘Bahu Beti Sammaan Bachao Mahapanchayat’ organised by the Jats.
The state administration has admitted that two districts – Muzaffarnagar and Shamli – have been experiencing communal conflicts for over a month. “The violence began with the rape of a Scheduled Caste woman in Shamli last month.
The social tensions in the region are evident from the fact that Jats, who do not usually empathise with the concerns of the Scheduled Castes, spoke out against this outrage,” said RK Ohri, author and a former police official.
Although Jats comprise just 6% voters in western UP, they can swing the outcome in the districts of Bijnor, JP Nagar, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad, GB Nagar, Mathura, Agra and Aligarh. The SP, which did not have much presence in the region, has strengthened its position by wooing the minority community.
In as many as 13 Lok Sabha seats, Muslims account for more than 15% of the electorate. In constituencies such as Rampur, Amroha and Sambhal, Muslims add up to over 60% of the electorate. The collapse of the Jat-Muslim social combo is certain to provide an opening for the BJP in the western UP.
Jats, who have been the flag-bearers of anti-Congressism since the days of Charan Singh, are likely to look for alternatives to the RLD if communal polarisation deepens in the days to come.
This thesis is then articulated very clearly in an unsigned editorial in ET:
According to one count, there have been more than 100 incidents of communal violence in UP since the SP took over. Such frequent bloodshed can be neither happenstance nor coincidence. It has to be by design. The chief suspects are those who stand to gain from such violence and resultant polarisation, namely, the Samajwadi Party and the BJP.