Vol. XLII No. 13 April 01, 2018

Uttar Pradesh: Exonerating Communal Rioters

THE expectation that the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh would maintain the rule of law in the state has been futile.  All doubts regarding  this were completely dispelled by the recent announcement by the chief minister that he has initiated action to take back 131 cases that had been filed during the vicious and bloody communal carnage witnessed in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts in 2013.  These include 12 cases of murder, many cases of attempt to murder, dacoity and other heinous crimes.  All the accused belong to the Hindu community and include ministers, MLAs, MPs and other important BJP functionaries.

Altogether 503 cases were filed in connection with the riots and about a fourth of them are sought to be withdrawn.  In the most terrible rioting ever witnessed in the history of Muzaffarnagar, more than 60 people lost their lives, hundreds suffered grievous injuries, more than a dozen women were raped, thousands of homes were burnt and more than 40,000 people had to leave their homes and villages and take refuge elsewhere.  For obvious reasons, the Yogi government has no interest in seeing that the riot victims get justice.  In fact, it is interested only in saving Sangh Parivar activists involved in criminal activities associated with the riots. This is being done in response to the demands being raised by prominent BJP-RSS leaders over the last year.

All BJP governments seek to save their activists from the law but the Yogi government has been the most shameless in this regard.  Last December, it passed a law that would lead to the withdrawal of 20,000 cases that were ‘politically motivated’.  Even this is not surprising in the context of the chief minister withdrawing criminal cases filed 22 years ago under Cr. PC Sec. 188 against himself and 13 others.

There is an immediate reason for the attempts being made to withdraw cases related to the Muzaffarnagar riots.  Kairana, in a neighbouring district, will soon witness a by-election necessitated by the death of BJP MP, Hukam Singh, himself a riot-accused.  After the hugely damaging losses it has suffered recently in the by-elections of Phulpur and Gorakhpur, the BJP cannot afford to lose in Kairana.  With the SP-BSP tie-up looking increasingly dangerous, the BJP is once again resorting to its old tactic of communal polarisation that has won tremendous dividends for it in the past.  It is important to remember that not only are the SP and BSP coming together but serious efforts are also being made to heal the enmity that the riots had created between farmers and rural workers of both communities.  

The riots of 2013 had made huge political gains in Western UP possible for the BJP. In order to repeat its performance, it is using its state government to once again re-open wounds that had started to heal.  It is also trying to assuage the anger of those Hindus who resented the fact that, falling prey to BJP-RSS provocation and propaganda, they had participated in the riots and violence.  Many of them had been imprisoned and are involved in cases.  The BJP cannot afford not to let this anger simmer with a by-election looming ahead.

There is no doubt that given the shape that the law and order machinery in UP is in and also the communalisation that has taken place in its ranks, there was not much hope that the riot victims would get justice.  The BJP government by its recent action, however, has expressed its determination to establish a state of injustice.  The prime minister who never tires of swearing allegiance to constitutional propriety is absolutely silent.  This is proof of the fact that that under BJP rule, the rule of law is endangered.

In order to protect the rule of law, the courts will now have to fulfill their responsibilities.  They must resist this move to withdraw cases against those accused of heinous crimes and assure justice to the victims.  The people of UP will teach a lesson to the BJP for its attempts to make a mockery of the rule of law.

(March 28, 2018)