‘It matters now if your name is a Muslim one or a Hindu one’
Over two months after being a witness to one of the worst bouts of communal violence that left 63 people dead and over 43,000 homeless, Muzaffarnagar is anything but peaceful. Among the incidents of violence which have kept the riot-torn district on boil, the new addition is the gang-rape of a 20-year-old girl who was staying at a relief camp in Jogya Kheri village.
The two accused in the case, Sunil and Sachin, are from Fugana village where the girl lived before her family was forced to take refuge at a relief camp a kilometre away. The local police have arrested the two youths after medical reports confirmed the rape, but Fugana, one of the worst-affected areas during the riots, continues to be tense.
In the context of the implication of the communal riots on the people of the district, The Hindu spoke to a cross-section of residents of Muzaffarnagar. All of them highlighted the trend of “extreme polarisation” of the populace along communal lines, and its impact on inter-communal relationship in the region.
Shandar Gufran, who runs a girls school in Muzaffarnagar, is part of several peace committees. The general environment, argued Mr. Gufran, was one of rife with mutual distrust and suspicion brewing between Muslims and Hindus.
“Every time we try to bring the situation under control, another incident of communal violence occurs and we are back to square one. We tried organising peace meetings but the sad truth is that efforts to build peace have failed. People on both sides do not want to hear anything about peace,” Mr. Gufran added.
As a result of this, ghettoization had entrenched itself further, especially in the minority community.
Mr. Gufran pointed out that until recently, in urban parts of Muzaffarnagar, Muslims could, at least, think of staying in a locality with a dominant Hindu population. This has become ‘unimaginable’ in the post-riot period, he stated.
As far as the riot-torn villages are concerned, Jats and Muslims do not want to see each other, he added.
Samarth Prakash from Prayatn, an NGO working on creating awareness about the Right to Information Act, argued: “Thanks to the bogey of ‘Muslim appeasement’, Jats and other Hindus who were earlier divided, realised that they needed to adopt the larger identity of being Hindu to counter the ruling party which was biased against them.”
When asked how the riot dented the ‘secular fabric’, Mr. Prakash replied, “Earlier people used to talk about the so-called ‘Muslim appeasement’ in hushed tones. Now, it is the overarching narrative dominating debates in drawing rooms.”
“The biggest casualty of the polarised discourse is that it matters if your name is a Muslim one or a Hindu one,” he added.
‘Muslims could earlier think of staying in a locality with a dominant Hindu population. This has become unimaginable now’ ‘Muslim parents have discontinued their children’s education in schools located in largely Hindu localities’
‘Muslims could earlier think of staying in a locality with a dominant Hindu population. This has become unimaginable now’
‘Muslim parents have discontinued their children’s education in schools located in largely Hindu localities’