The sequence of events leading to the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, which has claimed over 30 lives so far, has marked similarities with other such major incidents that had taken place in Uttar Pradesh under the Samajwadi Party government.
Over 20 incidents of communal violence have taken place in the State since Akhilesh Yadav became Chief Minister in 2012.
Eve-teasing, rape as triggers
Just like in Muzaffarnagar, the communal violence in Faizabad during the Durga Puja procession in October last was reportedly triggered by an eve-teasing incident.
However, till date no FIR has been lodged against it, inviting doubts on the authenticity of the claim. Significantly, a one-man inquiry committee under the Press Council of India concluded that the Faizabad incident was “well-planned” and blamed the administration of laxity.
Dr. Anil Singh, a Faizabad resident who has been following the case, says the eve- teasing case was “planted” and purposefully given communal colour.
In Pratapgarh, where around 50 houses of the minority community were razed in Asthan village in June last year, the alleged trigger point was the gang rape of a Dalit girl. The accused, four youths, belonged to the minority community.
An inquiry report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and other organisations, available with The Hindu, has questioned the claim and termed the sequence of arson and violence “planned” and “organised.”
Role of political leaders
In Muzaffarnagar, FIRs have been lodged against several Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs in connection with Saturday's “mahapanchayat.”
Similarly, in Faizabad, FIRs were lodged against several BJP leaders for inciting violence. There were also various reports of alleged hate-speeches and communally inciting sloganeering in the days building up to the violence.
The Pratapgarh incident too was surrounded by the controversial visit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia to the affected village. The name of Kunda MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya had also surfaced in connection to the incident.
The role of media has been questioned in all three cases. As an August 20, 2012 report in The Hindu says, a Hindi daily erroneously noted that the accused in the gang rape in Pratapgarh were freed by police when they were actually in the lock-up. This, according to locals, became the trigger for the mob to unleash violence.
In the Faizabad violence too, the Press Council of India termed the local media reporting of falling short on secular credentials.
Now, in Muzaffarnagar, a fake video that was circulated in social media is blamed for aggravating the violence. The snapshots of the video, which show the lynching of two youths, appeared in local dailies.
While this was erroneously shown as a local incident, the original video has been sourced to an incident in Pakistan in 2010.
Role of ‘outsiders’
The role of outsiders in the arson and violence has also been suspected in all three cases. While the police initially arrested 23 locals belonging to the Dalit community for the violence in Pratapgarh, the PUCL report notes that locals claimed that “the attackers came from outside.”
In Muzaffarnagar too, various television and print reports have indicated the role of outsiders. A large number of people are said to have entered the district to attend the mahapanchayat.
In Faizabad, eyewitness accounts, as reported by The Hindu then, point to the role of outsiders in the violence and arson.