Uttar Pradesh has acquired the dubious distinction of communally the most disturbed state of the country. There were 247 incidents of communal violence in the state during 2013 in which 77 lives were lost. This year, as per available figures, there have been 65 incidents of communal violence in the state so far in which 15 people were killed.
The Muzaffarnagar riots had shown Uttar Pradesh administration in very poor light. It was expected that the state government would draw appropriate lessons and ensure that there was no recurrence of a major riot. But, like the Bourbons of Europe, the Samajwadi government refuses to learn or to unlearn. The four great lessons of Muzaffarnagar riots were: that local officers should have full freedom to deal with a riotous situation with all the available resources at their hand; that officers on the spot should rise above all considerations of caste, community, religion or any other parochial consideration in taking action against the guilty; that any unlawful assembly should not be permitted and persons making inflammatory speeches should be arrested then and there; and that there should be no directions from Lucknow or any other centre restraining the initiative of district officers.
In Saharanpur, trouble had been brewing for some time. There was dispute over ownership of a plot of land located near the railway station between the Sikhs and Muslims. The high court had given a decision in favour of the Sikh community. That was, however, contested by the Waqf Board. The district administration could have taken action under the Criminal Procedure Code to bind down the opposite parties. That does not appear to have been done. Meanwhile, the rioters planned to stoke the flames. The IG (Police), Meerut Zone, Alok Sharma, is reported to have said the clashes were “pre-planned”. An armed mob of 2,000/2,500 is said to have attacked the Sikh establishments, looting and burning their shops and firing at random. Hindu units were also targeted. There was naturally retaliation. Three persons lost their lives in the rioting while 33 sustained injuries. If there was planning before the riots, the question arises as to what was the role of the intelligence and the executive. Did the intelligence give any warnings and, if so, what follow up action was taken? Devendra Singh Chauhan, Additional Director General, who was sent as observer, is reported to have said the local administration could have prevented the riots if decisions had been taken promptly. Why were those decisions not taken? Was there any direction from Lucknow to give the rioters a long rope?
A disturbing feature of the riots was that motorcycle-borne masked men were seen firing indiscriminately. We have seen Muslim youth on motorcycles spreading terror among the peopleand defying the police in Delhi also. Describing them as the new age version of the medieval Islamic jihadis on horses, as one critic has done, may be an exaggeration, but it certainly shows an aggressive mindset. It is only a question of time that such attitude metamorphoses into commitment to a radical ideology.
Muzaffarnagar is generally quiet. Saharanpur is limping to normalcy. The police claim to have arrested the main accused involved in instigating the clashes. But the big question is: Why has Uttar Pradesh become communally so very vulnerable?
The fact of the matter is that ever since the Samajwadi Party has been voted to power, there is a feeling among the majority community that the largest segment of minorities is being pampered and that, in the event of any confrontation, the former would not get a fair deal. That being so, every time there is a clash and the police is found dragging its feet, the aggrieved community tends to take law in its hands. The Saharanpur incident reflects the aggressive attitude of the Muslims in asserting their rights, real or imaginary. There would be communal stability in Uttar Pradesh only when all sections of people feel that the government is fair and just to all the groups and there is no bias towards one section or the other. The present government of Uttar Pradesh has not been able to generate that feeling—and that is the crux of the problem.