Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has finally woken up from his deep slumber and visited the riot-hit Muzaffarnagar area. This was his first visit since the riots broke out in September 2013. Notwithstanding the opposition criticism of the Akhilesh Yadav government for its inept handling of the communal situation that sparked off the riots, Mulayam Singh Yadav had so far decided to stay away from Muzaffarnagar.
The party chief went there in order to woo Muslims, and one of the major highlights of his speech was the comparison of the Muzaffarnagar riots with the Gujarat riots, where he said that the Samajwadi Party -unlike the Gujarat government- took care of the riot-victims by spending a sum of Rs. 115 crores on rehabilitation of riot-victims and had also offered jobs to the youth of Muzaffarnagar- while the Gujarat government did not even spend a penny after the Gujarat riots on rehabilitation.
Mulayam Singh’s visit came a few days after his son and state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav made a visit to Muzaffarnagar. He continued from where his son had left off last week by attacking the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and saying that the SP was the only party looking after the needs of Muslims. The reality however is that at least five thousand riot-affected Muslims of Muzaffarnagar are still living in relief camps to this day. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, Muslims had voted in favour of the Congress because Mulayam Singh had entered into an alliance with Kalyan Singh. This angered Muslims and it was reflected in the results.
The party in its election manifesto has spoken at length about programmes aimed at the development of the Muslim community and empowering the Muslim youth, but it has nowhere mentioned any facts or figures.
More than 50 people were killed and over forty thousand were displaced in the communal violence that broke out in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas. Mulayam Singh had infamously labelled the people in the camps as activists from other parties. A bureaucrat in SP government had made the situation worse by dismissing the deaths of children by saying, “No one really dies from the cold”. This insensitivity was further aggravated when the party spent crores in organizing the Saifai Mahotsav in the winter when displaced riot victims were dying of cold.
The UP government not only failed to prevent the riots and contain its effect, it has now proven itself to be incapable of even taking care of the victims in the relief camps. But now that the election nears, the government is shamelessly praising itself in front of hapless people who were left to die in the winters with the SP turning a blind eye to them.
It seems that this election has also been polarized once again, and every party is playing on communal chords- some for it and some against it. The Samajwadi Party is desperate to hold on to its Muslim votes as they know that Muslim support is crucial for the party’s aim to sweep the upcoming Lok Sabha election in this crucial state.
Uzair Hasan Rizvi, is a student of journalism at Jamia Millia Islamia. He tweets @rizviuzair