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Bloody record: Is 'secular' SP more communal than the BJP?

Rohit Ghosh | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 5:59 IST

Hate violence

  • Since 2012, UP has reportedly seen the most riots of any state
  • 150 people have been killed, 1,800 injured, thousands left homeless
  • This month, a mob nearly lynched four Muslims in Mainpuri

Main culprit

  • Often in the wake of riots, the BJP is blamed for fanning hatred
  • The supposedly secular SP may be as responsible, if not more
  • During its rule, communal riots have hit at least a dozen cities
  • The party\'s leaders were indicted for the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots

In the wake of the Dadri lynching, the BJP came under attack for fanning religious violence in UP, and deservedly so. But the supposedly secular Samajwadi Party's record of playing communal politics isn't much better.

The list of communal riots that have occurred on its watch is shamefully long - Mathura, Bareilly, Lucknow, Meerut, Rampur, Amroha, Jaunpur, Jhansi, Bulandshahar, Kannauj, Muzaffarnagar.

Mathura's Kosi Kala was hit by riots just three months after the party won power in 2012 and installed Akhilesh Yadav as chief minister.

The following year, riots ravaged Muzaffarnagar district, leaving at least 60 people dead, mostly Muslim, and 50,000 homeless. The government not only didn't control the violence for months, it failed to even provide proper relief to the victims.

An investigation by Justice Vishnu Sahai later indicted leaders of the SP, as well as the BJP, for inciting and orchestrating the riots.

Not just BJP men, Justice Sahai panel also indicted SP leaders for the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots

Last month, Dadri happened. The shock of the lynching of a Muslim man for reportedly eating beef had not yet subsided that communal tension gripped Mainpuri, again over rumours of cow slaughter. Four people were almost lynched by a mob.

No official data is available, but according to police sources in Lucknow, UP has witnessed the most communal riots of any state between 2012 and 2015. They have left 150 people dead, 1,800 injured and thousands homeless.

The question is why has the SP government not checked the communal violence?

Votes for blood

"The riots are politically planned," said Prof Badri Narayan of GG Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad.

"Whenever the Samajwadi Party comes to power in Uttar Pradesh, more communal riots take place. It benefits the party as it uses the riots to broaden its political base," he added.

"Moreover, the SP claims to be pro-Muslim while the BJP is pro-Hindu. So, clashes become inevitable. One form of communalism facilitates the other."

The BJP, Narayan pointed out, has become quite aggressive as the party, guided by the RSS, has "realised it can only gain power in the state by polarising the voters". And the SP isn't trying to confront it for fear of antagonisng the Hindu vote.

Another factor is administrative. UP bureaucrats joke that currently the state has five chief ministers - Akhilesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Shivpal Singh Yadav, Rajendra Chaudhry and Azam Khan. All with their own competing interests.

"It is no longer a joke. UP is indeed being ruled by five chief ministers, at least," insisted a former police chief. "Akhilesh may have good intentions, but he is helpless before the senior leaders of the party."

"If Akhilesh wants to act against an erring officer, for example, one or the other senior leader stops him," the former DGP added. "Too many leaders are making the state leaderless."

On Akhilesh's watch, riots hit Mathura, Bareilly, Lucknow, Meerut, Rampur, Amroha, Muzaffarnagar.

"This wasn't so in Mayawati's time. Her word was final. Officials just had to abide by her decision. And that's the main difference between this SP government and that BSP rule."

Asked why the self-proclaimed secular party hadn't checked communal riots, SP leaders ducked the question.

"I am not authorised to speak on the matter," said the state minister Shiv Kumar Beria. "Rajendra Chaudhry is the official spokesperson. He should be contacted." Chaudhry couldn't be reached despite several attempts.

Senior party leader Mehtab Alam said: "I am not authorised to speak on the topic. Surendra Mohan Agarwal is a senior leader. He should be contacted."

Culture of hate

It was left to a senior police officer to defend the government. "Cow slaughter was made an issue by the Centre and states ruled by the BJP like Maharashtra," he said. "Violence over rumours of cow slaughter has taken place in Jharkhand and Kashmir. So, how can the Samajwadi Party alone be held responsible?"

He added, "Today, the atmosphere across the country is vitiated. It needs just a spark to trigger violence. Samajwadi Party cannot be blamed."

Former DGP: UP is ruled by 5 CMs - Akhilesh, Mulayam, Shivpal, Rajendra Chaudhry, Azam Khan

"As far as the UP police is concerned, we are taking steps to prevent violence. Slaughtering of cows is banned and we will take action against anybody who breaks the law, whether a Hindu or a Muslim."

The BJP isn't amused by these allegations. "Why was a one-member panel formed to investigate the Muzaffarnagar riots? Why not a committee with more members? That itself exposed the intentions of the SP," the party's spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak argued.

"From Muzaffarnagar riots to the lynching of a man in Dadri, the SP has been responsible for all the riots in UP," he added. "This government is confused. It does not know how to run the state machinery, so it foments communal riots. It wants to hide it failures."

"The BJP is accused of stoking communal violence. But why doesn't this government take timely action to prevent it?"

First published: 15 October 2015, 7:40 IST