SAHARANPUR RIOTS

In the wee hours of Saturday, clashes broke out between the Muslim and Sikh communities of Saharanpur. After almost a week, the death toll rests at 3 as a result of the communal riots with many others injured and the city under curfew with shoot-at-sight orders being issued in the area.

The root of these communal clashes lies in the long standing dispute between the two communities over a piece of land, adjoining the Gurudwara in the Kutubsher area of Saharanpur. But interestingly, the disputed plot was never a major issue for either community up until recently. The Sikhs claimed the Muslims had claimed their rights over the plot after they bought it four years ago. Though the Muslims claimed that the plot was a Waqf property, they could not prove the same in a minority commission. Later, they had withdrawn their claim over the plot and it was finally handed over to the Sikhs. Since then, it was a non-issue between the two communities. In fact construction work to extend the Gurudwara premises began a year back, taken up by the Sri Guru Singh Sabha, without any opposition from the Muslim community, claimed the Sikhs. But, all of a sudden some people objected to the construction work and violence erupted between the two communities on last Saturday.

As of 29th July, 2014, the Police suspected the Saharanpur violence to be pre-planned. They claimed that certain aspects of the Saharanpur clashes indicate meticulous planning by the rioters, who had a singular agenda of dividing the Sikhs and Muslims in the western Uttar Pradesh district. The rioters had a well-chalked plan as they first set ablaze the fire-brigade office and fire tenders, disabling the department from carrying out any relief work. They then carried out looting and arson. Locals also claimed that some motorcycle-borne masked men were indiscriminately firing at whosoever was standing in their way, suggesting that they wanted to spread terror among the people for stopping construction at the plot. Some responsibility of the violence also lies with the civil and police administration because up until 4pm on Saturday, the violent rioters had free reign and no appropriate action was taken. This delay was also the cause of wide-spread damage to property and of course the loss of human lives.

 Finally, on Thursday i.e. the 31st of July, the police were able to arrest the main accused for instigating clashes - Moharram Ali - and his six accomplices. He had allegedly incited a mob to pelt stones and fire at the Sikhs and also opened fire on a police constable who, is presently battling for his life, in a city hospital. The accused will be charged under the Gangster Act and the National Security Act (NSA). 

Meanwhile, the Centre and BJP were seen to be sending mixed signals. The Union home minister had given certain directives to the UP government to maintain peace in the state. But on the other side, they had given questionable signals to the BJP workers there. Initially Rajnath Singh had assured complete support to Akhilesh Yadav, CM of UP, but later had to issue strict directives to the UP government, on facing criticism for his soft attitude and also on being asked for a action taken report by PM Narendra Modi. The initial assurance lent by Rajnath Singh is said to be due to his long standing association with SP chief, Mulayam Singh Yadav.

However, BJP MP from Saharanpur Raghav Lakhan Pal said whatever happened in Saharanpur was the handiwork of Congress leader Imran Masood. While, Masood claimed that the violence was instigated by the BJP MP since, he wants to field his son in the upcoming Assembly Polls for Saharanpur. 

Thus, it is very clear once again that, in the name of electoral politics, parties like the BJP and the Congress can not only destroy livelihoods of innocent people but also, keep their lives at stake without so much as the batting of an eyelash.