The ongoing communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and other neighbouring districts of Uttar Pradesh that has already taken a toll of 30 lives cannot be described as a sudden eruption that has caught the state government or the Centre by surprise. As Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde admits intelligence agencies had issued clear and specific warnings and these had been communicated to the state government. Muzaffarnagar had been simmering since the killing of two young men on August 27 in a clash which had clear communal overtones. Yet the state government headed by Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh did nothing to arrest the culprits allegedly under pressure from local party leaders.
All this makes it stand out as a clear failure of the State to protect the lives and property of its citizens. This is inexcusable as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister has himself admitted recently that the State had witnessed over two dozen incidents of communal violence since he took over. Neither does the Centre’s claim that it had passed on intelligence inputs to the state government absolves it. On an issue which has ramifications beyond geographical borders of a state, the Centre cannot simply act as a postman and remain a passive spectator. Recent incidents show that Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir also have uncomfortable communal dynamics.
The political blame game that has ensued even before the fires have been doused underlines another unfortunate aspect of our polity. Instead of being a constitutional principle that detaches the State from religion even as it protects every citizen’s right to practise his or her faith, secularism has become an instrument for politicians to pander to their vote banks by projecting every problem in terms of caste and creed. It is time they realised that the government can best protect its citizens by treating them as equals in the eyes of law and dealing with them without fear or favour.