How Sahranpur Violence Exposes More Than UP’s Communal Instability And Growing Access To Guns

Posted on August 1, 2014 in Politics

By Mayank Jain:

The fire still burns the streets in flames of hatred and anguish. The stains of blood which poured out of vandalism etch the roads and the shut doors scream of the horrors the past few days. The city of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh has become a fortress in a span of just 3 days since the clashes hit the city and the political machinery of hatred has been activated. The problem is that the focus is still on shifting the blame instead of containing the ever expanding appetite for violence of the state.

saharanpur riots

The violence in the Saharanpur has come at a crucial point and signifies the need to not take the instances of violent clashes as one off cases but as systematic follies of the system. The pages of Indian politics are being turned rapidly and the plot is replete with instances of violence, dissent and agitation from all ends of the society while the social fabric of the country is being stretched and pulled from its vertices.

A contentious piece of land became the epicenter of the clashes which erupted between the Sikh and Muslim communities in the Qutub Sher Police Station area when the two groups attacked each other over the controversial land. The Hindu has reported that the cause of the dispute is the construction of an extension to a Gurdwara on the land where, a mosque stood, according to the residents.

The toll of this reckless violence over a sub-judice matter goes much beyond the immediate loss to life and property. 3 people died and over 20 were injured in the clashes which took an ugly turn in the wee hours of the morning when both the groups began attacking each other. What followed was multiple rounds of street violence, rioting, and arson which turned the otherwise calm city into a burnt wreck of nothing but police patrolling which has historically been proved to be too little intervention if not too late.

Uttar Pradesh is India’s problem child. When things are going well for the state, rest of the country doesn’t feel a thing but a little clash here or there in the interiors of the unstable state and the tremors are felt far and wide in the country. Anger and anguish replace rationality and judicial proceedings from all ends and hell breaks loose in the state which already struggles from socioeconomic traps.

Guns for votes

Uttar Pradesh accounts for almost 50% of the deaths in the country caused by firearms violence. The rioters in the Muzzaffarnagar clashes were roaming free on the road with guns in their hands as innocents lost lives and political blame game steered clear of any reference to accessibility of guns.

Statistics by National Crime Records Bureau reveal that despite having only 15% of the country’s population, the state witnessed 1720 deaths by firearms while Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra’s tally stood at only 4 and 43 deaths respectively.

The accessibility to guns come in multiple forms in the state where guns form a part of the dowry package at times and are the preferred fireworks during marriage ceremonies at the other. Even election times are the best times to get hold of a gun license by promising votes to a political party. The lack of political will is the dangerous valley between UP’s aspirations of being the growth leader of India and its current notoriety for being the boiling pot of everything violent.

Politics of Hatred

As soon as two communities come to loggerheads with each other, the machinery of hatred comes into action. Fueled by political push and backed by local goons, the violence is supported by the very parties which condemn it on TV shows, weeks after the incidents.

While Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav trivialized the communal incident of clashes as ‘incidental’ and something which can’t be controlled; the blame game in the state had already begun. Regular condemnation gave way to customary bashing of the state governments while no one came up with a plan to control these violent outbursts for sub judicial issues.

BJP, meanwhile, came up with another Pakistan ISI conspiracy theory and speculated that the intelligence agency of our neighbours might have played a role in the clashes which were clearly a result of local enmity among communities and a failure of the state judiciary to contain them.

Azam Khan who happens to be a cabinet minister in the government of Uttar Pradesh is a case study in brewing hatred by speech. He is among the first ones to be mentioned in news reports whenever something communal happens because of his past stands and hate mongering speeches that spew fire at one community in front of another.

His statements have been politically charged war cries to establish ethnic superiority and his speeches in the past have called for “taking revenge from murderers of Muzaffarnagar” and targeted Narendra Modi with a despicable language by even political standards of our country. “We don’t want your sympathy, elder brother of a dog’s son.”

However, the country is full of Azam Khan-esque politicians who won’t let an opportunity to make political strides slip away whenever they get a chance to appease or alienate a community. This is the curse of democracy and a strict vigil on reducing this horse-trading of verbal hatred by the politicians is going to be the price we pay for peace in the country.

Bloody Numbers

The statistics of communal riots in the country have gone up during the past few years and Uttar Pradesh is the undisputed leader at the top. The state has seen most deaths in the country in such clashes for a second consecutive year.

The number of cases of communal riots in the country have risen by 30% over the past year and Uttar Pradesh is the source of most of these cases. Uttar Pradesh alone has seen 247 reported incidents of communal violence, up from 118 in 2012. The spike in the communal violence is not only due to the sentiments of people but also the political will or the apparent non-existence of it.

Such communal clashes have become commonplace in the country. Incidents of riots are incidentally double the incidents of rapes. Riots occupy as much as a 3% share of the total crimes in the country and the sad reality of Uttar Pradesh is that it grapples with caste issues intermingled with instances of crime against women which ensue dowry deaths and marital rapes in the state.

Ending The Political Tug Of War

With the politics of Uttar Pradesh scrambled all over the place and politicians lining up to slam each other or at times, their own departments, there are more reasons to worry than we think.

The government at the centre has been vocally critical of the state administration while the state government rubbishes instances and talks about other states’ cases to rationalize theirs. The lax response of the state government after Muzaffarnagar riots was clearly visible in the abysmal performance of the party in the Lok Sabha elections.

But, nobody focuses on the simple fact that policing and listening to the voice of people on the streets might actually be the key to spot and contain these instances before they burn the very social fabric we have learned to spit on.

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029