SP accuses BJP of making Muzaffarnagar a ‘laboratory of Gujarat’

The BJP’s decision to honour two of its MLAs — Sangeet Singh Som and Suresh Rana — accused in the Muzaffarnagar riot cases — at a rally in Agra on November 21 has stirred up yet another political controversy with the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and the Congress terming the move an attempt to refuel communal hatred in the State.

Peace activists working in the communally sensitive western Uttar Pradesh have warned that the BJP move would further widen the divide between Hindus and Muslims in the region.

The decision to felicitate the two MLAs at the rally, to be addressed by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, was announced by State unit president Laxmikant Bajpai.

Mr. Som and Mr. Rana, who were jailed for their alleged role in September’s communal violence, were recently released on bail. BJP sources said the party was trying to make the case of the two MLAs a poll issue in Uttar Pradesh.

Commenting on the issue, SP State unit spokesperson and Prisons Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said the BJP honouring the accused MLAs was akin to felicitating communalism. “The BJP’s character is essentially communal… It excels in spreading separatism.”

Alleging that the MLAs had incited tensions with their hate speeches that led to the communal clashes, in which many lives were lost and scores of people displaced, Mr. Chaudhary charged the BJP with making Muzaffarnagar a “laboratory of Gujarat.” Chief Minister Narendra Modi wanted to take the entire country on Gujarat’s path of communal hatred, he added.

Countering the SP’s charges, BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak said the MLAs were booked under the National Security Act to ensure “communal polarisation” of votes, and pointed out that these charges were struck down by the State Advisory Board.

Blaming the SP for rising communal tensions in the State, he alleged that a Muzaffarnagar riot accused, Maulana Nazeer, was brought to Lucknow in a State-sponsored plane and treated as a State guest by the SP government.

In his reaction, Pradesh Congress president Nirmal Khatri told The Hindu that “instead of discouraging people accused in communal riots and other crimes, the BJP is encouraging them.”

Peace and social activists in western Uttar Pradesh are shocked at the BJP’s move and warned that it might shatter the fragile peace in riot-affected areas. “The BJP is getting wary as its attempts to polarise politics in the region are now failing. People have been badly hit financially in the region due to mass migration of labourers, which is hurting all households. Elders in both communities have begun a reconciliation process that does not suit the BJP’s style of politics. Hence, this attempt to re-polarise and further divide society,” Muzaffarnagar-based social activist Shandar Gufran told The Hindu.