June 19, 2016

Kairana : False Story of Exodus

Subhashini Ali

NOT just the BJP, but the entire Sangh Parivar has announced its intention of preparing for the UP state assembly elections in 2017 ‘on a war footing’.  A victory in UP is essential to bolster its campaign for another big win in the next Lok Sabha elections.  It needs to be remembered that the Sangh Parivar prepared for the last Lok Sabha elections of 2014 ‘on a war footing’ in UP – bloody riots, attacks on poor, Muslim families in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Shamli districts of Western Uttar Pradesh and their forced exodus from the homes and villages to makeshift refugee camps were the result of this preparation and the ensuing polarisation ensured 71 Lok Sabha seats for the BJP from UP alone.

Subsequent bye-elections, however, have been a bitter experience for the BJP – they have lost in almost all the constituencies concerned.  As a result, the Sangh Parivar has intensified its communal campaign in different parts of the state especially in the sensitive Western districts.

From the beginning of June, Hukum Singh, MP of Kairana, Shamli district, has been making wild allegations about an ‘exodus of Hindus’ taking place from this Muslim-majority district. ‘He also produced before media a list of “346 families” that fled the town leaving behind their homes and property after being allegedly targeted and persecuted by another community. The town had become a “new Kashmir,” alleged Singh, who also claimed he met union minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the matter’   Within days of his making these allegations public, ‘The National Human Rights Commission on Friday issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government over complaints alleging the exodus of families of a particular religion from Kairana town in Western UP due to “fear of criminals” belonging to another community. Kairana is in the communally-sensitive Shamli district adjoining Muzaffarnagar and less than two hours drive from New Delhi.’ (The Hindu, June 10, 2016)



Newspapers and TV Channels reported these allegations in ways that were provocative and even incendiary.  For examples, the DNA of June 14 reported that  ‘VHP on Monday held "jihadi elements" responsible for the alleged exodus of Hindus from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh…Jain (VHP leader)  said the migration of Hindus from Kairana is "unfortunate" and the township, which was Hindu majority 40 years ago, now has only eight percent Hindus…"It is not only Kairana in Uttar Pradesh that is a mute testimony to the exodus of Hindus, there are many more places other than Kairana which are also witnessing this trend of mass out-migration of Hindus. Apart from Kandhla, Gangoh and Thanabhavan, there are many other places in Western UP where Hindus are resorting to mass out-migration," he said.’

The population figures quoted in the report are incorrect although the newspaper does not take the trouble to set the record straight.  In the last Census of 2011, the population break-up is given as 80 percent Muslim and 20 percent Hindu and this has been the break-up for decades.

Zee News, not surprisingly, has done its best to inflame sentiments.  On June 13, it carried the following item on its website “Delhi: RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha on Monday dubbed the mass exodus of Hindu families from Kairana village of Uttar Pradesh's  Shamli district as a manifestation of 'anti-Hindu' ideology, which had led to nation's separation in 1947.” The news channel carried interviews with people who had migrated from Kairana. The questions asked by the interviewer and the headlines used were highly provocative (“Do you still persist in believing that Hindus are not being hounded?” etc.) while what those interviewed said was concentrated on the general lawlessness of Kairana and much of Western UP and also lack of opportunities in these areas.

The alleged forced exodus was also the main focus of the two-day meet of the national executive of the BJP held at Allahabad on June 12-13.  This is not surprising since the venue of the meeting was chosen keeping the coming assembly elections in mind and the occasion was used to sound the battle cry for the battle that has begun in full earnest.  Ravishankar Prasad complained at a press conference during the meeting that ‘despite the issue being serious, the state government is not taking any action.’  (First Post, June 12).  In his speech at the rally that concluded the meeting, BJP president, Amit Shah thundered: “The exodus from Kairana is an eye-opening exodus.  If you do not want a repetition of the Kairana events in UP, then throw the SP government out by the roots.”  (translation from Amit Shah’s Hindi speech).  In fact, Shah referred to Kairana in every intervention that he made during the meeting and said that Kairana and Mathura would be the main slogans of the BJP during its election campaign.  



The 14th and 15th of June, however, saw newspaper articles that told a story very different to that being put out by Hukum Singh and his colleagues.  The Indian Express carried a story  that  ‘A list of 346 ‘Hindus’ that BJP MP Hukum Singh claimed had left Kairana in western UP over “threats and extortion by criminal elements belonging to a particular community (read Muslims)” has quite a few discrepancies…While it does have names of some who have left alleging harassment by “gangs”, the list includes names of people who have died, of those who left Kairana more than 10 years ago and still others who say that they migrated for a better school for their children or a better job…The Indian Express tracked down 22 people who figure in Singh’s list and found five had died, four had moved out of Kairana looking for better opportunities, 10 left more than 10 years ago, three had moved fearing “local criminals”. Told about these discrepancies, Singh said, “I have received complaints that some names in the list are of people who moved out of Kairana a while ago.”’ (A day later he said that he had been misled by his Party workers and that the exodus of people from Kairana was not a Hindu-Muslim issue).

The Indian Express story goes on to say that ‘A report on 118 names submitted Monday by the Uttar Pradesh police and the Shamli district administration, who are checking on names in Singh’s list, found similar patterns: five dead, 12 still present, 46 moved out since 2011, 55 moved out at least 6-11 years ago.’

The news channel, NDTV, reported on June 14 that ‘the UP administration has been conducting a door to door survey over the last few days to verify Hukum Singh's claims, and a senior official, Sujit Kumar, told NDTV, "We have verified 119 names. Four were found to be dead, 68 left Kairana a decade ago and 35 left five years ago in search of better livelihood. We haven't found a major law and order lapse," Mr Kumar added.’

Hukum Singh, after accepting his lapse as far as Kairana was concerned, went on to allege (to NDTV) that 63 people have fled from Kandhla which is near Kairana.  A correspondent from The Hindu has filed a report on June 15 that ‘A verification by The Hindu found that the Kandhla list had names of at least three people who are still living in the area...most of the people who were interviewed, spoke of migration due to absence of employment opportunities in Kandhla and its vicinity.’

The truth, however, is no deterrent to the Sangh Parivar’s determination to manufacture ‘facts’ in support of its campaign to spread hatred and violence.  Despite all the evidence that has been provided to negate their allegations, even on June 15, it has sent a ‘fact-finding’ delegation to Kairana, Kandhla etc to probe the exodus that never was.

Undoubtedly, each new day will bring a new story of alleged exodus of Hindus from one area of Western UP or the other, from various leaders of the BJP and Sangh Parivar.  The publicity given to their allegations will lead to deepening communal divides and polarisation.

Not only does this emphasis on exoduses that have not happened help the campaign of polarisation for votes but it also serves to take the spotlight from the real and very cruel forced migrations that are taking place in UP, migrations which are the result of the policies of those ruling at the centre and the state.

More than 50,000 poor Muslim villagers, men, women and children, were forced to leave their homes after rioting and bloody attacks in 2013.  Not even a few hundreds have returned.  Some are still in the remnants of camps, others are living with relatives or in colonies or rented hovels.

From the parched districts of Bundelkhand – straddling both UP and MP – the last six months has seen an exodus of impoverished peasants with their families desperately searching for employment to stay alive.  Some idea of their numbers can be gauged from the fact that, in the last one month, two trains, the Gondwana and Sampark Kranti Express carry more than 500 people each from this area to Delhi where they live in the open, under overbridges, and spend every waking hour in search of any kind of work at all.