ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lessons from Muzaffarnagar

Communalism cannot be fought without acknowledging caste, class and patriarchal oppressions.

The communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas is a warning of the days to come. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is crucial to the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if its prime ministerial aspirant, Narendra Modi, has to have a plausible chance of coming to power. There has been a rise in incidents of communal violence since the Samajwadi Party (SP) government was elected to office last year, but the “riot” earlier this month – when close to 50 people were killed, a few hundred injured and tens of thousands fled from their homes – stands distinct in its scale and is clear evidence of what Paul Brass has termed the “institutionalised riot system”. The “Gujarat model” of using the terror of communal violence to forge communal unity among “Hindus” to build an invincible vote bank appears to be the strategy that has been employed; it is no surprise that this has come within months of the former Gujarat minister of state for home and prime accused in the fake encounter killing cases, Amit Shah, taking charge of BJP’s UP unit.

There have been analyses of the political calculations of the BJP and the SP in these riots, and of the break-up of the political alliance between Jats and Muslims in western UP and what impact this will have on the Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal. In all this there have been calls to expose the communal games, book the guilty and provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims. It was good that the prime minister and the chief minister visited the violence-affected areas and promised justice and a return to normalcy. Hopefully, the governments at the centre and in the state will not forget these promises; perhaps the impending elections will help them remember.

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