Kairana Exodus: Electoral short sightedness
Recently in the poll-bound UP, the BJP raked up the issue of a mass exodus from Kairana, a small town in Shamli district in UP. According to MP Hukum Singh, “many Hindu families were forced to leave Kairana town in Western Uttar Pradesh due to ‘threat’ from a particular community”. (PTI, 2016 ) Stating the above he released a list of 346 families who had been forced to flee the town. A day later he added that the 346 Hindu families who had fled their homes in Kairana town had done so due to “threat and extortion by criminal elements belonging to a particular community” (PTI, 2016). He added “It is not about communal incidents…It is not about Hindus or Muslims, the list may not be foolproof. This is about law and order.” The MP alleged that “Muslim gangs” such as the Mukeem Kala and Furhaan gangs were a “menace in western UP and that “local criminal elements have established their roots in Kairana by getting the political patronage of a particular party”. (PTI, 2016)Step by step the MP highlighted that the reason for the mass exodus were threats and extortion by a local Muslim gangster who had political patronage from the Samajwadi party government.
Soon after the list of 346 persons was released BJP party chief Amit Shah said at a massive rally in Allahabad, that only the BJP can defeat the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and exhorted the state not to take “Kairana lightly.” (Biswas, 2016). The issue was taken up by a number of Ministers from the BJP party and the cabinet issuing statements in media that the law and order issue ought to be taken seriously. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a member of the BJP party called for action by the State government if the incidents were true (PTI, Ahmedabad, 2016). Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju spoke of the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh under the current government. Maneka Gandhi said that there is neither development nor safety, adding the Samajwadi Party Government has no shame about the rising crimes in the state (ANI, 2016). Ministers of the BJP were indicating that law and order under SP government had deteriorated through their remarks.
In the past, the SP government was criticised for the increasing number of rapes and other offences pertaining to violence against women. It may be worth mentioning that BJP had attributed ‘love Jihad’ which implies Muslim men trapping innocent Hindu girls into love affairs and impregnating them in order to increase Muslim population and convert the Hindu girls so trapped. The love jihad campaign was, like the present ‘exodus of Hindus’ campaign, is to demonise the Muslim community as terrorists and at best anti-social elements from whom Hindus need to be protected and only a BJP Government would do so.
Sample this e.g. – Laxmikant Bajpai, the then UP state president of the BJP while addressing a party meeting on 23rd August 2014 in preparation for UP poll in 2017 said it was shocking but true that in UP state, 71 of 100 crimes were against women, and that 99.99% of the accused in these crimes were Muslims. In order to make out a case of UP government protecting anti-social Muslims, Bajpai further said that the UP government was defending ‘love jihadis’ while ‘victims’ were murdered or harassed by the police (IANS, 2014).
In statements made at election campaigns the BJP leaders have time and again sought to point out a ‘particular community’ (read Muslims) as responsible for communal riot, terror and hooliganism. On the eve of the bypoll in UP in August 2014, Sangeet Som BJP MLA said that “youth from a particular community are involved in eve-teasing Hindu girls, the situation was so bad that girls cannot move out freely.” (Verma, 2014). Yogi Adityanath made similar statements to demonise Muslims and blame them for being responsible for communal riots (Express News Service, 2014). In the by-election campaign in 2016 in Uttar Pradesh, Muslims were demonised as hooligans and terrorists emphasising the need to prevent the migration of Hindus and restore their honour (Bhardwaj, 2016). The Kairana BJP MP has added another (false) incident to sustain the charge of Muslim criminals would not let innocent Hindu law-abiding citizens live in peace. Each of these public statements was an offence under S. 153-A of IPC for promoting disharmony, or enmity, hatred or ill-will, between different religious communities. In most cases neither the FIR was registered nor was any prosecution launched. This emboldens the BJP leaders to be more and more explicit and aggressive in promoting disharmony, enmity, ill will and hatred against the Muslim community for political objectives.
Crime and patronage
The BJP and its leadership is expressly and impliedly demonising the Muslim community on half-baked and twisted facts. A section of Media checked the list of 346 Hindus who were supposed to have left Kairana. A team of journalists sent by The Milli Gazette found, “The Kairana list had the names of four dead persons and 68 who left Kairana long ago. It also includes the name of 20 families which are still living in Kairana. This indicates that these allegations are part of a well-designed plan to polarise the society ahead of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections next year.” (India Resists, 2016).
Investigation and tracking down of names by the Indian Express and Times of India exposed that people on the list had died and some left looking for better prospects (Ranal, 2016) (Vatsa, 2016). By fact, some on the list who were interviewed said that they had left due to tension during the Muzaffarnagar riots fearing that they will not be able to earn a livelihood in such an environment. Another investigation by Shamli administration found that out of the 346 families listed by Mr Singh the administration probed 119 of which it found 68 had left Kairana 10-15 years ago for employment, business, and education of children, health and other services. Several on the list were dead and some were found still living in Kairana. It was also reported that some BJP party workers were themselves confused about the names on the list. (Rai, 2016) A group of Hindu sants submitted a report to the Chief Minister in which they rejected the exodus. (PTI, 2016)
ABP News, The Indian Express, similarly found the claims to be false. BJP’s claim regarding the ruling SP patronising Muqeem Kala Gang too is false. Kala was arrested in October 2015 by STF. Criminals have no religion and their activities are neither inspired nor supported by any religion or religious community. In fact, Muslims were as much victims of Muqeem Kala Gang as members of other communities. They work for monitory gains.
It is interesting that during Lok Sabha election campaign, BJP’s slogan was “sabka sath sabka vikas”. Yet the BJP has never spoken a word about internally displace people belonging to the minority communities, even while its national leadership and Union Cabinet ministers problematize alleged exodus of 346 Hindu families. More than 50,000 Christians were displaced following riots in Kandhamal in 2007 and 2008. More than 50,000 Muslims have been displaced and are living lives of misery, nay, lives fit for animals in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts flowing communal riots in 2013. To this day 5200 families of internally displaced people (IDPs) live in 63 relief camps in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar district. Many IDPs are settled in camps in Kairana. The families fear return due to the volatility of the political and economic situation back home. More than 1.5 lakh were displaced in 2002 communal violence from their homes and have not been able to return even today in Gujarat state. In Assam hundreds of Muslims have been displaced in several incidences of communal violence and are living miserable lives.
Organised criminal gangs and vigilante groups routinely operate in various states seriously jeopardising law and order but if they belong to Hindu community, BJP either chooses to remain silent and Hindu nationalists tacitly even extend justification and political patronage. For example, Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched in Dadri on the unfound allegation of storing beef in his house. The mob was instigated by local cow vigilante group. Such groups exist throughout the country and commit a gross violation of law and order, indulge in extortion, lynching and killing over beef. The extortionists claimed the lives of five persons through mob violence in Haryana, a BJP ruled state (Countercurrents.org, 2015). A similar incident of extreme violence by cow vigilantes occurred on 19th March 2016 in Jharkhand Latehar district where two Muslim herders herding eight buffaloes to a Friday market were beaten up and hanged from a tree (Abraham, 2016). In Madhya Pradesh, on 15th January 2016, A Muslim couple was assaulted by members of the Gau Raksha Samiti in the general compartment of the Kushinagar Express at Khirkiya railway station, in Harda district of Madhya Pradesh, when they objected to their luggage being searched on suspicion that they were carrying beef (Ghatwai, 2016). These crimes have created currents of fear in the states and a much larger state of insecurity in the country. Slowly and silently they produce ripple effects of forced migration to safer places.
Assaults against Tribals occurred in Chhattisgarh, a BJP ruled state by goons such as hurling of acid on tribal activist Soni Sori(Dahat, 2016). In Haryana, two young children from a Dalit family were burnt alive and their parents suffered injuries after their home in a village was set afire deep in the night (Singh, 2015). In what appeared to be a clear move to protect the central government from the tragic event in a BJP ruled state, Minister of State for External Affairs General V. K Singh remarked that “If someone throws stones at a dog, the government is not responsible” (BS Web team, 2015). Shirking off the responsibility for mob violence indicative of the absence of law and order in numerous incidents the BJP government at the centre and in the states has encouraged criminal elements even under their own governments in the states.
MP Hukum Singh openly discarded the communal angle to the mass exodus in his statement, but party members tried to stir the communal pot while attacking the SP government and pointing out ‘certain kind of criminals’. Sangeet Som BJP MLA had proposed to take up a Padyatra from Kairana to Kandhla as a response to the mass exodus of Hindus, which was prevented by MP Singh. A party leader claimed that the BJP was scouting for other ‘Kairanas’ in the State, where similar migration has taken place (Rashid, 2016). The Minister released a second list titled “Kandhla se palayan karne wale pariwaron ki soochi” – a list of 63 on 14th June. (Express News Service, 2016)
In multiple ways indirectly the party aimed at polarisation in Shamli. The party members have indulged in hate speech propaganda in the villages of Bijnor, Rajhaar, Badwar in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar districts in the past (Aaj Tak, 2014) (PTI, 2014). At Rajhaar village in the district of Shamli, the BJP party President while campaigning for Lok Sabha elections in 2013 referred to the Muzaffarnagar violence and addressed the gathering saying, ‘the revenge for insult will have to be taken’. (India Today, 2014)
If the BJP indulges in communally polarising the situation for electoral gains, India would be unwittingly marching towards the alleged slogan shouted on JNU campus “Bharat ke tukde tukde honge inshallah”. That should be avoided and resisted tooth and nail by those loving democracy.
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Vatsa, A. (2016, June 16). Kairana exodus: BJP list of ‘Hindus’ forced out includes those who died, migrated for better job.Retrieved June 2016, 30, from The Indian Express: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/kairana-mass-exodus-shamli-hindu-exodus-akhilesh-yadav-up-elections-bjp-hukum-singh-2851411/
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