By Abhishek Jha:
The result of the 2014 elections was a disappointment for a lot of people. It was not surprising, though, for Uttar Pradesh. Studies have emerged since that election, that show that BJP benefits from communal polarization. And western U.P. had seen some of the worst incidents of violence against Muslims just before the elections. However, believing that such tactics would serve for long would be a mistake on the part of the party. The Samajwadi Party ruling the state may have suffered badly in the elections, but it was not very keen on addressing the issue either. While it remained inactive before and during the mass violence (despite the signs of tension), they showed little resolve in rehabilitating those who were affected by it.
It is a relief then to see that the Commission of Inquiry on the violence has finally finished its report- after seeking seven extensions- and is said to have named leaders from both the parties. The wheels of justice have started to turn. If those racing for the throne ignore the powers of the Constitution, it would be a good time to wake up. A similar Commission of Inquiry, the powers of which are provided by The Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, had managed to get even a person with popular support like Bal Thackeray arrested, albeit seven years late. He might have escaped due to technicalities, but the manner in which he had summarily refused the report and continued to stoke communal passions had one believing that the man somehow could not be contained. The Muzaffarnagar violence accused Sangeet Som has also rejected the report and enjoys Z category security provided for by the Modi government. It would be too imaginative to draw too many parallels here but Som should learn that he is not beyond the Constitution. He definitely should not attempt such bravado again for the sake of winning elections, for himself or for his party.
But the reports of such commissions are not only important for bringing justice to the victims of past riots. The Srikrishna Committee Report on the Bombay riots had important lessons in it that remain relevant even today and the report is often cited to suggest preventive action for riots. That is why the Justice Sahai commission report will be an educative one once it is made public, which should happen after some action is taken on its suggestions. Among the various reasons cited for the riots by the commission, it had also cited unemployment and poor economic condition of the people as a probable cause of people’s lapping up of communal rhetoric. Over the course of two years, activists and journalists have pointed this as a reason in Muzaffarnagar too. Documentary filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney’s Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai makes an excellent argument in this regard. But there were some differences too. For instance, ‘love jihad’ was a lie repeated with such vigour that it could have begun to sound like truth if not for a report that cut through the lies. Sawhney’s documentary also exposes the hollowness of this vicious Sangh Parivar campaign.
The conclusions and suggestions on these matters would be something that one might seek in the report then. This is because what happened in Muzaffarnagar also happened in Atali. The model of causation is similar and it has resulted, similarly, in the economic boycott of the Muslims. When a ‘sustainable model of Hindutva’ is being developed, some judicial suggestion might provide a model by which it can be countered. This is because the Jats of western U.P. had already learnt their lesson this summer when they saw no help from the leader that they elected with such unity and passion. Reports claimed that farmers were ‘disillusioned’ and ‘angry’. A Hindu report quoted a Jat leader as saying this: “Modi got an unprecedented number of votes because of the riots. Let there be elections right now and no Jat will vote for him. BJP will have serious trouble in the State polls if this situation continues. The BSP may end up being the unlikely beneficiary.” But a lot of people died, were raped and displaced before this wisdom arrived and, who knows, this might be forgotten in the fever of fighting another bogus enemy. The lessons of the report, however, will endure and are, therefore, eagerly awaited.