By Abhishek Jha:
Politicians would have one believe that incidents like Muzaffarnagar, Atali, or Dadri are spontaneous, sporadic, or natural. But there is a shrewd design to it, and there are lessons to be learnt from these incidents. At the heart of them all lie systemic problems and organised groups that need to be fought if justice and peace are sought.
The violence that started two years ago in western U.P. has not stopped and continues to resurface. Justice remains elusive. In the six registered cases of gang-rape, sixteen out of the twenty-two accused are out on bail, a report says. The accused continue to threaten the victims although the victims live under court-ordered protection. A report by Neha Dixit in Outlook in February this year shows that there is little hope that justice will be delivered even in future. The police, almost deliberately, delayed registering FIRs of even the small number of women who decided to do so. They delayed filing of the charge-sheets by several months, beyond the mandated 90 days, delayed the medical examination by several days, beyond the mandated 24 hours, and the investigating officer Mala Yadav- who was accused of a biased investigation and colluding with the accused- was removed from the case as late as November last year. All this has made conviction difficult.
The Law Commission report on capital punishment submitted this year talks specifically about the rights of victims and the role of rehabilitation and compensation in restorative justice. But for the victims of Muzaffarnagar the hope for any such restoration has already vanished. Despite the Supreme Court order, the State Government failed to provide any financial assistance to the aforementioned rape victims, beyond the amount given to every riot-affected victim.
There were other lapses on the part of the U.P. government too. The fabricated cases of love jihad, manufactured by the Sangh and the BJP leaders from western U.P., who have been found confessing their involvement in the recent Cobrapost-Gulail sting, had been doing the rounds on local newspapers, several months before the mass violence against Muslims in September. Despite several signs and warnings, the SP government failed to act. Here is one such instance:
“The local administration and the Lucknow headquarters were receiving minute-by-minute updates for two weeks before the incident,” an Additional Superintendent of Police, who was present in the Muzaffarnagar area on the day of the Mahapanchayat told me. “We did not need GPS. We needed orders.”
The Jat Mahapanchayat (mentioned above) at Nangla-Mandaur had people brandishing weapons, Sangh and BJP members making virulent speeches, which ended with the violence, on 7th and 8th September 2014, that killed, injured, and displaced hundreds of people. The Panchayat was held on the platform of Bharatiya Kisan Union with the involvement of BJP members. It is interesting to note that around 750 farmers had committed suicide in 2013 in U.P., the fifth highest number of such suicides in the country. The sugar industry owed over Rs 2000 crores in arrears for the 2012-2013 period to the sugarcane farmers by November 2013. The panchayat for farmers- which had earlier fought for maximum selling price for farmers- had nothing to talk about the dire condition of farmers at Nangla-Mandaur.
I bring up the issue of farmer suicides and the money the mill-owners owed to them because it does have some bearing on the condition of the state right now. The Srikrishna Commission report on the 1992-1993 riots in Bombay does state that the “decline of employment in organised sector and growth of informal sector” was an immediate cause of the riots. The huge debt that farmers incurred due to the payments that were due to them was a frustrating, as attested by the reports on farmer suicides. At this time, the distraction of a “foreign” enemy is both relieving and intoxicating. The anger and frustration then has a target. A similarity- tempting for me to make- between the rise of Nazism and that of Hindutva is the conditions prevailing before this rise: Germany was hit hard by the Great Depression, and unemployment was at an all-time high.
This temptation is not unfounded, though. The farmers had not received their arrears worth Rs 1000 crore from last year, till this summer. Coming down from Muzaffarnagar are the districts Meerut, Baghpat, Hapur, and Ghaziabad. A district president of the Bharatiya Kisan Andolan was reported, in August, as saying that these districts alone had seen some 49 suicides this year. Also, a report in The Sunday Express on 13th September- ‘Bull for Buffaloes’– talks about the troubles that those transporting cattle through these regions have to go through. This reminds one of Atali. The target of the mob there was specifically the house of the two families that were upwardly mobile and defended their right to build a mosque. The story the mob was trying to sell the media afterwards was that of cow slaughter, of which there was no evidence, although slogans asking for the death of those who slaughter cows could be found at regular intervals on the road from Ballbgarh to Atali. There is indeed a politics of economic embargo at work here.
Dadri lies between Ballabgarh and Ghaziabad, and it had a similar trajectory. Soon after, Samadhan Sena started holding meetings in Jarcha (a village in Dadri). The village Pradhan’s son, a Muslim, was attacked for opening a shop on ‘Hindu’ land. Three Muslim men had been beaten to death in Kaimrala two months ago for alleged cattle smuggling.
What then is to be done? Another lesson can be learnt from one Dr. Cijith, who runs a Hindu Helpline for brainwashing Hindu-Muslim couples. “We cannot initiate a riot. That never happens. If I want a riot, I can’t just say Hindus and Muslims. They won’t do it. No community will do that. What I can do is I can make all the circumstances ready. I can just initiate the people. I can just irritate the people. And the incident has to happen itself,” he was found saying in the recent sting operation by Gulail and Cobrapost.
To end this spate of violence one must end the conditions that lead up to it. The political parties have a duty to those who fund their election campaigns, and the only way to woo the farmers is to engage them in matters other than those that concern them. The duty of those who want peace is then to argue and inform the farmers of their real problems. The Land Acquisition Bill has already disillusioned the Jats in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. The concern here is that due to the riots the problem of land acquisition might lay forgotten. The same report that informed of this disillusionment also had a BJP leader saying, “The communal atmosphere ahead of the State Assembly polls will be such that Jats will be forced to vote for the BJP.” We cannot let this happen. We have paid the price for it numerous times in the past two years. It is high time we bring to practice what we have learnt.