The script which eventually brought Narendra Modi to power in Gujarat is being tried out in Muzaffarnagar and, at the time of writing, even in Meerut which is still closer to the national capital. What is frightening is this: the political class is in deep slumber. Nero fiddled while Rome burnt; this class is asleep.
After motoring through some of the Jat dominated villages around Muzaffarnagar from where Muslims have been driven out (or which they have left in fear), I can say with certainty: something very sinister is happening barely two hour’s drive from New Delhi and just a little more from Lucknow.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, of course, has had it in Muzaffarnagar. That is the least important story at the moment because State Assembly elections are due only in 2017. His Prime Ministerial dreams for 2014 are also over, but shattered dreams of ambitious politicians too are not stories of consequence.
I had barely returned from Muzaffarnagar, when friends from Meerut, which is mid way, called: “A Muslim fruit seller, named Zahid, at village Behrampur in Jani Block, has been stabbed to death.” Almost as an echo came the next report. “Pankaj from Bhasuma in Markala Tehsil was likewise killed”. Soon came the news from a Muslim dominated cluster around Gulmarg cinema in downtown Meerut: a Hindu boy killed and his body hurled into the nearby graveyard. In other words, the tempo of Muzaffarnagar is being kept up in Meerut.
It is officially accepted that 40 people have been killed in Muzaffarnagar. Maulana Mohammad Nazar, who represents the Deoband seminary in Muzaffarnagar, offered figures which took my breath away. According to him and his colleague Maulana Asad Rashidi, “the number of those killed could be anywhere between 250 to 500”.
Lakhte Hasnain, a respected lawyer of the city, is much more cautious with his figures. “People are either in refugee camps or are hiding in Muslim villages”, he says. “An accurate figure will emerge only after normalcy returns.” But the figure of “40 dead” is too low, he says.
A Jat farmer, who is connected with the aggressors in these pogroms spread over atleast 20 villages, believes “100 or more” may have been killed.
Between villages are tall sugarcane fields which the locals describe as “jungles”. Driving through these fields at night is a frightening experience, custom made for a Hitchcock sequence.
The sugarcane will be cut and harvested in November. Only then will the fields reveal their secrets.
Darker secrets reside in the mind of Mohan Sharma, of Meerut’s Vishwa Hindu Parishad who was on the Manch or stage at the Mahapanchayat at the Nangla-Madaud Inter College near Muzaffarnagar. It is from this Manch that Mohan Sharma and his cohorts gave the call of “Beti Bachao” or “save our daughters”. According to this narrative Muslim boys seduce Hindu girls “to expand Muslim population, using Hindu girls as machines”. This entire operation has been given the title: “Love Jehad”.
Mohan Sharma, in an interview to The Hindu, gives a graphic account. “Initially good looking Muslim men are identified. They are trained in Madrasas, given jeans, T-shirts, mobikes and taught to behave in a seductive fashion.” This is a section of the massive communal mobilization: fabricated videos; Hindus in danger; dehumanization of Muslims for an audience of lumpenized youth, the works. And all under the nose of the administration fully aware of the communal mobilization for a fortnight.
Has the Muslim-boy, Hindu-girl element been inserted into the narrative of August 27 in which a Muslim and two Hindu boys were killed? Various stories are available: that two motorcycles collided, leading to a scuffle and that the girl angle is an afterthought. The second is that a Muslim and some Hindu boys claimed the same girl’s favours, and thirdly, a girl complained to her family that Muslim boys tease her when she passes their village on her way from school. Can there not be an official, police version?
The truth is elusive because such allegations are common in a traditional, rural society coping with rapid change.
Jat leader Naresh Tikait was frothing in the mouth over the Supreme Court’s ban on Khap panchayats. He said the society had lost control over “our bahu-betis”, or daughters.
The “Bahu-Beti” slogan resonates powerfully in a society struggling to come to terms with changes it cannot control. That the threat comes from “anti national” Muslims, plotting to procreate according to a plan to become the majority, may sound absurd in sober moments. But toss these provocative slogans at a frenzied mob, which is what the Mahapanchayat of September 7 had become, the resulting riots could have been expected.
In this instance the government in Lucknow have achieved the impossible. Both, Jats and Muslims coming from opposite ends, have turned angrily upon Lucknow, both complaining the leaders favoured the other side. Nor has Jat leader Ajit Singh of the RLD covered himself with glory. Some Maulanas from Deoband called up Ajit Singh to help stop the Mahapanchayat on September 7. He said he would exercise his influence on the Jats. “How does he explain the riots and pogroms which started that night?” asks Maulana Nazar.
I have covered a series of riots these last few years in which the police partisanship followed a pattern: it took sides against Muslims. Of these Massoori in Ghaziabad, Faizabad and now Muzaffarnagar, have been during Akhilesh Singh’s rule. In none of these riots did I ever see the Chief Minister visit the victims. Gopalgarh in Rajasthan and Dhule in Aurangabad were under Congress ruled states. The Chief Ministers, likewise, never obliged.
The most prophetic slogan was by Yogi Adityanand in Faizabad:
“Faizabad shuruaat karega, UP ab Gujarat banega.”
(Faizabad is the beginning. UP will now follow the Gujarat model)
(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)