It is said that to win a general election, securing the state of Uttar Pradesh is a must. With over 180 million people, the existence of deep rooted social divisions based on caste, creed and religion, UP has been the playground for politicians to incite and agitate groups to practice vote-bank politics of the worst kind.
The 2014 Lok Sabha elections are no different, and over the past few days, the fight for supremacy in Uttar Pradesh has been taken a few notches up, as expected. Analysts have said ‘fear’ is going to be the pivotal reason on how the state’s Muslim minorities vote, as many clerics and elders ask people to vote against the BJP which is looking to reverse India’s secular traits.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) is taking these sentiments in its strides. One of the party’s main leaders, Azam Khan, has somehow even managed to add a communal twist to the Kargil war of 1999, which took place far away from the hinterland of UP amidst the peaks of the Himalayas in Kashmir. Khan has said “Muslim soldiers” were the reason behind India’s victory in the conflict. He also added that it was the Muslim faujis who raised the battlecry of God before conquering the peaks of Kargil.
Khan’s comments come days after the BJP’s Amit Shah was caught asking a gathering to vote for ‘revenge’ in the upcoming polls. Shah also called SP leader Mulayam Singh ‘Mullah Mulayam’ and said the current, democratically elected SP government in UP will fall once Modi becomes prime minister.
Both the Shahs and the Khans “working” within UP to gain more political mileage by pitching communities against each other have now managed to bring in the soldier in this pool of muck, a shrewd and unthoughtful political policy aimed at scare-mongering mostly poor people into giving votes to communal forces on the back of empty scare-tactics.
While Shah and Khan were busy adding new colours to their communal agendas, a few hundred kilometres from the political ground-zero of Uttar Pradesh in the state of Bihar, three jawans of the CRPF in Aurangabad district lost their lives while trying to defuse an explosive device with their bare hands. The device, believed to have been planted by Maoists, exploded, gravely injuring all three, who then found themselves in a region without adequate medical or evacuation facilities.
The jawans were rushed to a hospital reportedly in a private bus due to the unavailability of an ambulance. A journalist at the hospital made a video of one of the injured, 39-year old constable Dillip Kumar, who is seen in the clip pleading to be saved. “I am lying here for the last two hours. There are no doctors here. Please save me or otherwise I will die. I have small kids. I appeal to the PM, President of India to please save me. I am appealing to my DGP, please help me out and save my life.”
When such apathy against the very people who risk their lives to maintain the security of the country could not find one reasonable political voice supporting them, people like Azam Khan are given free access by their own party leaderships to undercut political opponents using whatever means possible.
This continuous practice has gone unchallenged by legalities or more stringent checks by the Election Commission as well, and the success of such a ‘strategic-communal’ policy applied by the likes of the SP and the BJP are already reflecting in pre-poll surveys, giving more legitimacy to their effectiveness. For example, according to media reports, UP’s Muslim population may vote for the SP, the BSP and the Congress in order to try and keep the BJP out of the picture.
However, the likes of Azam Khan, who seem to have no qualms in dragging an institution such as the Indian Army into the pre-poll banter, should not even be allowed by the public to drag the Indian soldier into becoming a tool to garner votes. As writer Charles M Province has said:
“It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
Kabir Taneja, 28, is a Delhi-based journalist and scholar at The Takshashila Institution. He tweets at @KabirTaneja.