May 19, 2024
Sambhal Outrage: Targeting Muslims

NARENDRA Modi cannot speak nowadays anything which even approximates the truth. His latest false utterance is in an interview after having filed his nomination in Varanasi. Modi said that when he talked of “those who have more children”, he had not meant Muslims. He further went on make the astounding claim that “The day I do ‘Hindu-Muslim’, I will not be eligible to stay in public life”.

Anyone who has heard or seen Modi’s speech at Banswara on April 9 can make out that he targeted Muslims when he referred to “infiltrators” and “those who have more children”. The context is clear as he cites Manmohan Singh’s statement about Muslims having a claim on the nation’s resources. In fact, Muslims having more children has been a running theme with Modi. As early as in the Gujarat assembly election campaign of 2002, Modi talked of “hum panch, hamare pachees”. He had also callously alleged that the refugee camps for Muslims after the riots had become “child producing centres”.

It is this Hindu-Muslim rhetoric which led Modi, years later, to talk of “kabristan” and “shamshan ghat” in an election campaign in Uttar Pradesh.

The demonising and targeting of Muslims by the prime minister and his cohorts have translated on the ground into active efforts to disenfranchise them. This is what happened in Sambhal parliamentary constituency in western Uttar Pradesh when it went to the polls in the third phase on May 7. In several Muslim dominated villages in the constituency, there were attacks on Muslims who were waiting to cast their votes outside polling centres by groups of policemen. This has been graphically exposed in a report in the news website

The pattern was the same in various villages like Mansoorpur, Ovari, Shahbazpur Kalan, Mubarakpur and other villages. A convoy of vehicles with 30-40 policemen would arrive at a polling centre between 10.00 am to 11.00 am and proceed to snatch the Aadhaar cards and voting slips from voters who had lined up to cast their votes. Many of them were beaten including women, with lathis and fiber batons and driven away. At one polling centre in a junior high school in Ovari there is a video showing how voters are being driven out of the premises.

Many of these polling centres were in the Asmauli assembly segment. Even voters in some polling centres in Muslim localities in Sambhal town were also assaulted by the police. It is significant to note that no village or polling centres where non-Muslims dominate faced such attacks by the police.

This targeted operation covering a number of polling centres cannot be a localised or isolated event. It must have had the approval or done with the knowledge of the district level police authorities. The candidate of the Samajwadi Party, Zia Ur Rahman, who is also the MLA from Kundarki assembly constituency said, the police attacks were a “conspiracy to target Muslim voters”. Sambhal is a seat which was won by the Samjwadi Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Despite complaints being made to the police and election authorities, no action has been taken.  The police have in one instance, got one of the victims to give a statement under duress that no such assault took place. The Sambhal incident shows that in Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, Muslims have already become second-class citizens. Earlier, after the first phase of polling on April 19, Samajwadi party candidates had complained of voter intimidation and police preventing voters in Muslim areas in Rampur, Moradabad and Muzaffarnagar constituencies.

The Election Commission should have swiftly intervened to ensure repolling in the affected polling booths and to initiate action against the guilty police officials. However, nothing of the sort has happened. An Election Commission which sees nothing wrong with prime minister’s derogatory speeches against Muslims, can hardly be expected to protect the voting rights of Muslims. 

There is a straight line between the ugly anti-Muslim rhetoric of Narendra Modi and the Uttar Pradesh police’s attempts to suppress the voting rights of Muslims in Sambhal constituency. 

(May 15, 2024)



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