What Hindu exodus! Kairana has always been peaceful
- BJP MP Hukum Singh claims 346 Hindu families have migrated from the western UP town of Kairana due to fear
- The fact that Kairana is a Muslim-majority town is being used to buttress his claim
- UP planning commission member Sudhir Panwar says Kairana has always been peaceful, even during riots
- Cops say they\'ve checked up on 119 families, and found 68 of them had migrated more than five years ago
- Local politicians level allegations against Singh
- What is the Mukim Kala gang\'s involvement in the alleged exodus?
The story of the Hindu exodus from Kairana in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh has come as a shock. Locals and politicians from the region claim that the town has no history of communal strife, and that the BJP is once again trying to make a big deal out of a non-issue.
BJP chief Amit Shah, addressing a rally in Allahabad after the party's National Executive Meeting, said: "Uttar Pradesh should not take the Kairana incident lightly; it is a shocking development."
Interestingly, speaking minutes after Shah, PM Narendra Modi did not mention Kairana in his address, and confined his speech to development initiatives done during the BJP regime, and how UP is an important part of the BJP's success story.
Claims and rebuttal
Kairana, located in the middle of the prosperous sugarcane belt, is in the eye of a storm after local BJP MP Hukum Singh recently made the shocking claim of an exodus.
An accused in a case related to the Muzaffarnagar riots, Singh said 346 Hindu families had been forced to migrate out of the town, for fear of members belonging to a particular community. Kairana is a Muslim-majority town, a fact which is being used to lend weight to assertions by the BJP MP.
"Kairana has always been peaceful," says Professor Sudhir Panwar, a member of the UP Planning Commission and the president of the Krishi Jagran Manch.
"Even during the post Babri Masjid demolition period, when the whole region saw widespread rioting, nothing happened in Kairana. In 2013, when there were riots in Muzaffarnagar and even in some areas of Shamli, Kairana was quiet," Panwar points out, adding that Kairana is neatly divided into mohallas of different communities.
Jayant Chaudhary, general secretary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which has a strong support base in western UP, says: "Nobody from the area brought it to my notice that such a thing was happening." He wonders how there have been no complaints and no Panchayats about this, and questions the authenticity of Singh's claims.
A report jointly sent by Shamli SP Vijay Bhushan and DM Sujit Kumar to the DIG of police, Saharanpur Range, also explains how Kairana remained peaceful when the state was in flames during the 2013 riots.
"When the neighbouring town of Shamli saw communal violence in 2013, the victims of violence sought refuge in Kairana," the report says. "When these refugees tried to disturb the communal harmony, it was the residents of Kairana who helped the police and the administration to maintain communal harmony."
An MLC from the region, who did not wish to be named, says: "While BJP wants to rake up this issue, another reason for it is that Singh wants to stay relevant in the local state politics."
Some claim that Singh has made this an issue to pave the way for his daughter to enter politics. Before getting elected as an MP, Singh was an MLA from Kairana. The BJP lost the seat to Samajwadi Party's Nahid Hasan in the by-polls.
Others question Singh's tenure as an MP, and earlier, as an MLA. "He is a senior politician with a strong support base. How is it that he has not been able to stop this exodus, assuming that it happened?" asks the MLC.
Chaudhary adds: "It points to his failure as well, if for a moment one is to believe what he is saying it true. He fought the last elections on the 'Bahu-Beti Bachao plank, on ensuring security."
The RLD man accuses the BJP of shifting the goal-posts. He says it first claimed that 'if you bring us to the Centre, we will solve all the issues', and now, it has made a U-turn and has started asking the electorate to bring it to power in UP with the same set of issues.
The list falls flat
The police and the district administration, in their report, say they have started investigating the list provided by Singh.
So far, of the 346 families listed by Singh, the police have checked 119. The report says four people in the list are dead, while 13 are still living in the town. It adds that 68 families migrated at least five to 15 years ago to Panipat, Sonipat, Karnal and Delhi for business, employment, health or education of their children. The rest of the families, too, migrated at least five years ago, but continue to own ancestral property like houses or shops in Kairana.
Interestingly, the report says that some Muslim families have also migrated for similar reasons.
"There is no business. That is why the people are migrating to urban areas in search of a better opportunity," says Chaudhary Mushtaq, a local RLD leader and Member of the Legislative Council.
Farm distress and unemployment are bigger issues, which may be leading to such migration, Chaudhary says, adding that the government has not been able to tackle these issue.
The Mukim Kala angle
Singh has blamed a gang led by one Mukim Kala for the exodus. According to him, members of the gang made extortion calls to businessmen, which forced them to leave town.
Prof. Panwar points out that Kala, indeed, was involved in extorting money from local businessmen, and that had forced some people to leave town out of fear. But he added that Kala's targets were not from just one specific community, an assertion which is confirmed by the police report.
According to the report, 25 gang members are in jail, while another four have been gunned down in encounters, and that the gang is not responsible for any exodus, as is being claimed.
The report points out that after the 2014 murder of two traders, Rajendra and Shivkumar, by the gang - whose area of operation included Sonipat, Panipat, Karnal and Saharanpur - no incident has come to light.
Interestingly, it also says that in 2016, Mukim's brother Waseem, along with two accomplices named Babu and Subhash, tried to extort money from another trader, Nikhil, and that the police took strict action against the perpetrators. "In the past, all the incidents where the members of Mukim gang were involved were purely criminal, and affected both Hindus and Muslims," the report states.
Support base to be hit?
Chaudhary says it is unfortunate how the BJP is just talking about Hindus, while completely ignoring the Muslims. "Ghettoisation suits its politics," he says.
Panwar feels the list being floated by Singh may hit the BJP's credibility among its support base. "Remember the 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar, when some local BJP leaders floated a video which instigated the public? Later, it was found that the video related to an incident in Pakistan," he points out.
Ironically, the BJP has reportedly appointed Singh as the head of a high-level team of leaders to investigate the incident.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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