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Locals blame politics for violence

MUZAFFARNAGAR/NEW DELHI, SEP 11, 2013, DHNS: 1:28 IST
People are seen on the roads during the relaxed hours of curfew in the riot-hit area of Khalapar near Muzaffarnagar on Wednesday. PTI Photo
Locals in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar do not remember a communal flare-up in their region for years, and now wonder what went wrong this time. Elders in the villages believe they became victims of a grand design for attracting votes for the general election.

The riots have spelt trouble for the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP), which has a considerable following among Muslims, as several influential organisations belonging to the minority community have come together to demand the dismissal of the Akhilesh Yadav-led government. As the situation was normalising in the riot-hit district of Uttar Pradesh, authorities relaxed curfew for four hours from noon on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the curfew had been relaxed for two hours in the evening.

The riots, triggered by an eve-teasing incident and the killing of three youth, in this sugar-cane belt, where the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have a political hold, are attributed to the competition between the SP and the BJP, which are vying for a greater share of votes.

In New Delhi, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde hinted as much when he warned that the country might witness more communal riots ahead of the election, and suggested that “some political parties” could be behind the riots in Muzaffarnagar. However, he did not take any names.

Talk to any villager in Shapur, Kutbe, Kutbi or Sohran, and none of them remember a riot in the area. “Even during the partition we did not see a riot. We do not understand why this is happening now,” said 70-year-old Kadamdeen of Bohrakhurd village in the district. A group of hooligans, on their way to a marriage, had allegedly stopped Kadamdeen's vehicle and attacked him.

‘SP, BJP slugfest’

While the SP blames the recent flare-up on the BJP, the saffron party points its finger at the Akhilesh Yadav government for the situation, saying that it has failed to provide security for the common man.

Hafeez Ahmed, a resident of Muzaffarnagar, says the SP has betrayed the community. “The fight here is not between Muslims and Jats. It has been imposed on us. We want to live in peace but they are not allowing us to do so. We feel it was better when Mayawati was at the helm. There is no decisive action to contain the violence... We will not vote for the SP.”

Seven Muslim groups—Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JuH), All Muslim Personal Law Board, Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Milli Political Council of India, Majlis Ulama-e Hind, and Jamiat Ahle Hadith Hind—have shot off a letter to Shinde seeking dismissal of the UP government. They have sought an appointment with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to raise their issues.

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