All political parties and media outlets seem agreed that the recent Muzzafarnagar riots which cost 40 lives and brought untold misery to thousands who fled their homes, were the result of a conspiracy. But all seem to disagree about who was behind the conspiracy. The UP government was suspiciously lax in acting on warnings issued by the central government months earlier. Inexplicably it allowed a Jat mahapanchayat of 1.5 lakh people just 20 km from Muzaffarnagar in violation of prohibitory orders in force in the entire district due to prevailing tension. Thousands of vehicles and tractors from Haryana, Delhi and the neighbouring districts of UP were allowed to descend on the venue of the mahapanchayat. One UP minister has acknowledged that there was an administrative lapse. Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mr. Mulayam Singh was at pains to stress that the riots were not communal but ethnic – between Jats and Muslims. Chief Minister Mr. Akhilesh Yadav has accused other political parties for the conspiracy.
The UP administration has charged that a five minute fake video was used to fan violence. One BJP leader has been arrested in connection with that video. The district administration of Muzafarnagar lodged criminal cases against a senior BJP leader and former minister along with three other BJP leaders for violating the prohibitory order and allegedly delivered provocative speeches during the Jat mahapanchayat. The BJP leaders have denied charges. Leaders of the Bharat Kisan Union (BKU) and the Congress were also charged on similar grounds. Allegations and counter allegations of conspiracy to instigate the riots flew thick and fast between the BJP, SP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress. However, it is futile to speculate who was behind the conspiracy. It is futile to speculate that if there was indeed a conspiracy, whether it was the work of individual politicians or was it sanctioned by their respective political organizations. What can be assessed with some accuracy is the political impact of riots. Which party gained, and which party lost?
The SP is a huge loser. It is likely to lose its Muslim vote which is vital for its electoral success. Had Muzzafarnagar limited itself to communal tension the SP would have gained. That explains the seemingly deliberate administrative dereliction of duty. The Muslims of West UP who supported Mr. Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok DaL (RLD) might have been weaned away to support SP. But things got out of hand. The Jat mahapanchayat was followed by horrendous riots. The government’s failure has left the Muslim community bitter and alienated.
The BSP could be a gainer. The first Muslim priority as of present is to remove this government. In the assembly elections the BSP offers the best chance of doing it. Similarly the Congress could be a gainer. For parliamentary elections the Muslim vote will attempt to block the BJP. On present reckoning the Congress provides the only hope of accomplishing that.
The BJP is the biggest gainer. Notwithstanding Mr. Mulayam Singh’s nitpicking distinction between communal riots and ethnic riots, the accession of the Jat vote to the BJP, along with widespread communal polarization following the riots across the state, could provide a huge boost to BJP prospects.
The RLD is the biggest loser. The traditional harmony between Muslims and Jats carefully nurtured by the late Choudhary Charan Singh rendered West UP a solid base for the RLD. That harmony has been shattered. The cost of this division will be very heavy. It could destroy the dream of carving a new state of Harit Pradesh in West UP. Both the Jats and the Muslims yearned for it. The Muslims are one third of the population in the region. The Deoband centre of religious learning is in the region. The destruction of the fine balance between Jats and Muslims may be irreparable for a long time. Both communities may now repent at leisure.
It is in this cynical way that politicians will calculate the outcome of the Muzzafarnagar riots. They will not spare a thought for the heartrending tragedy befallen to innocent women and children. Their crime was that they belonged to a community. Their weakness was that they were poor. Their tragedy was that they lived in a country where politics is conducted by a cynical, cruel and corrupt class of leaders.