The Bharatiya Janata Party’s move to honour two of its MLAs — Sangeet Singh Som and Suresh Rana — accused in Muzaffarnagar riot cases at party’s rally in Agra on November 21 has stirred yet another political controversy with ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh and the Congress terming it an attempt to refuel communal hatred in the state.
Peace activists working in communally sensitive western Uttar Pradesh have warned that such an attempt would further widen the divide between Hindus and Muslims in the region.
The decision to felicitate the two MLAs at the party’s rally, to be addressed by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, was announced by the BJP State unit president Laxmikant Bajpai. Mr. Som and Mr. Rana, who were jailed for their alleged role in September’s communal violence in Muzaffarnagar 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 State Prisons Minister Rajendra Chaudhary said the BJP’s honouring the two riot accused MLAs was akin to felicitating communalism. “The BJP’s character is essentially communal…It excels in spreading separatism,” Mr. Chaudhary alleged.
Alleging that the two MLAs had incited communal tensions through their hate speeches that led to 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.” Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wanted to take the entire country on Gujarat’s path of communal hatred, he added.
Countering the SP charges, BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak said the two party MLAs were booked under the National Security Act (NSA) to ensure “communal polarisation” of votes, and pointed out that these charges have been 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. While the BJP MLAs were sent to jail, criminals patronised by the State government were given additional security, he charged.
Reacting to the BJP’s decision, Uttar Pradesh Congress president Nirmal Khatri told The Hindu that the move reflected the BJP’s mentality. “It shows that instead of discouraging people accused in communal riots and other crimes, the BJP is encouraging them,” Mr. Khatri said.
Meanwhile, peace and social activists in western Uttar Pradesh are shocked over the BJP’s move and have warned that this could led to greater rift between the Hindus and Muslims in the region and might shatter fragile peace in riot-affected areas. “The BJP is getting wary as its attempts to polarise politics in the region is 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 the communities have begun reconciliation process that does not suit the BJP’s style of politics. Hence, this attempt to re-polarise and further divide the society,” Muzaffarnagar-based social activist Shandar Gufran told The Hindu .