The communal crescendo in Uttar Pradesh is deafening. Over 100 riots — small and big — have broken out there since the Samajwadi Party (SP) took over the seat of power in March.
These communal incidents (106 in 257 days of chief minister Akhilesh Singh’s term) already pose a threat to SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s dream of positioning himself as the next prime minister.
Streets in Faizabad, the district town of Ayodhya, which saw riots after a gap of 20 years in October, and the nearby towns of Ruduli, Bhadrsa, Shahganj and Tipri are deserted. The debris from burnt shops and houses are still smouldering.
There has been no respite since the communal clashes which swept the Koshi Kalan township on the Delhi-Agra national highway four months ago. The vandalised memorial of Havaldar Abdul Hamid, a 1965 war hero, and an old, frail woman who wails holding pictures of the charred bodies of her twin sons bear testimony to this.
Politicians from Rashtriya Lok Dal (its MP Jayant Chowdhry represents the constituency), the SP and others are imploring Muslims not to press their cases and make peace with the rioters, who were allegedly Jats from nearby villages.
Most of the riots broke out between Muslims and Dalits, the vote bank of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, giving the chief minister the opportunity to claim that they smacked of a conspiracy. But, Muslim leaders are hardly buying this argument. Maulana Tausif Raza Khan Barelvi, the custodian of a shrine in Bareilly, believes that it is Singh’s duty as the head of the state government to unearth the conspiracy. At many places, local SP leaders have also participated in the riots.
“At least Muslims were saved from riots during the previous Mayawati government,” says a candid Barelvi. He adds that the Muslims who voted in large numbers to put up the SP government in Lucknow are already talking of teaching the Yadavs a lesson in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 that will annihilate Yadav senior’s march to Delhi.
Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi, echoes Barelvi’s assertions. He claims that in Bhadrsa near Faizabad, Yadavs and Thakurs ganged up to punish Muslims.