If it was the virtual collapse of the law and order situation which proved to be the undoing of the Samajwadi Party government in 2007, this time, it is the Akhilesh Yadav regime’s poor show on the communal front which promises to tarnish its image irreparably before the Lok Sabha elections. Muzaffarnagar may have witnessed the latest – and the worst – round of communal violence under Akhilesh, but the government’s previous track record has been tainted by a slew of communal riots earlier, too.
When Akhilesh took over as chief minister in 2012, he had promised to act tough against communal forces. But the state witnessed six major riots in the very first six months. According to a Union home ministry report, UP earned the dubious distinction of topping the list of states with the maximum number of incidents of communal violence in 2012. Since the SP government was installed, there have been over a hundred riots, including minor ones, in which 58 people have lost their lives.
However, Akhilesh Yadav admits only 27 communal riots have taken place, and every time one takes place, he blames it on a “conspiracy hatched by political opponents”. Also, the government has done little apart from shunting out district officials after a riot.
The first communal riot took place in early June last year in Kosi Kalan near Mathura when two communities clashed over using water at a place of worship. Four people died and several vehicles were destroyed. Pratapgarh was the second to witness a riot later the same month when 46 houses of Muslims were torched at Asthan village following the gangrape and murder of a minor Dalit girl.
It wasn’t long before Bareilly district saw rioting twice within three weeks between July and August last year, both times over communal issues. The disturbances continued for over a month and curfew was clamped in several localities for several days.
In September, six people died in police firing in Ghaziabad when a mob turned violent on hearing rumours about a copy of the ‘Quran’ being desecrated. Riots also broke out in Lucknow during protests against the alleged atrocities against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar. Similar incidents have occurred in over a dozen districts including Faizabad, Sitapur and Allahabad, due to which tension runs high between communities in several parts of the state.
The opposition BJP says that there has been very little action against rioters because of the SP’s policy of “minority appeasement”. Says UP BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpayee, “An impression has been created that this government has been made by the Muslims and for the Muslims. This has created communal friction, and it blows up with the slightest spark.”
Former DGP KL Gupta says the string of riots are a result of vote bank politics. “Both the BJP and the SP are trying desperately to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims for their political benefits,” he says. Besides, field postings of officials are being done on political considerations, he adds.