Polls under shadow of violence
Over seven months after the communal violence that claimed 62 lives and left thousands displaced in Muzaffarnagar district, the shadow of the riots still lingers as the constituency goes to polls.
The political parties do not admit it publicly but the communal divide is palpable. The electorate remains eerily silent, keeping the contestants on tenterhooks.
For the thousands who still in relief camps, the Lok Sabha polls do not hold any attraction. “The rioters are still roaming freely and threatening us. We will not get justice until they are apprehended and punished,” says Ghulam Mohammed from Joula.
Mohammed is associated with the Kisan-Mazdoor Manch. The riot victims as well as others are sore with the parties for ‘unashamedly’ giving tickets to the riot-accused.
BJP nominee Sanjiv Baliyan and Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Kadir Rana are riot-accused. Rana is the sitting MP who secured over 2.75 lakh votes, followed by Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Anuradaha Chaudhary who got 2.54 lakh votes in the last elections.
BJP nominee from the neighbouring Lok Sabha seat Kairana Hukum Singh and RLD’s Amroha candidate Rakesh Tikait too are accused in the riots. Officers here said as many as 735 identified riot-accused have not yet been arrested, largely due to opposition from their community members.
Despite spending hundreds of crores on rehabilitation and compensation, at least 10,000 displaced victims are still in relief camps expecting some succour from the government though it is no longer forthcoming.
Riot victims appear to be sharply divided on assistance from the government. “We have no complaints. The government has helped us,” said Khurshid Alam, a displaced victim from Kutba village.
However, another victim, Sajid, said as long as the accused were not punished, the victims will not get justice.
In Muzaffarnagar constituency, the Jats, who form the majority of the electorate, appear to be divided between BJP and RLD. “But for the Jat reservation, the community will have gone with the BJP. Now it is divided,” said Rajendra Malik, a city resident.
RLD is supporting the Congress here. Congress candidate Pankaj Agarwal has a clean image but a division in Jat votes and the visible tilt of the urban voters toward Narendra Modi could hit his chances.
Though the BSP has fielded a Muslim, the community seems to be unhappy with him. “Kadir Rana failed to do anything for the constituency in the past five years,” said Haji Shabbir, another city resident.
The Muslim votes are likely to be shared mostly by Rana and Samajwadi Party nominee Virendra Singh.
Besides, the Aam Admi Party nominee is a Muslim too and he could also make a dent in the Muslim votes. But AAP’s impact is not visible on the urban voters though.
Having lost faith in the politicians, who they say failed to provide them any help when they needed it the most, several displaced families have chosen not to get themselves enrolled in the voters’ list at their new places of residence as they wanted to boycott the Lok Sabha election.
“Nothing will change for us. They are all alike,” says 72-year-old Mohammed Sayeed, a displaced victim living at Shahpur relief camp.
A large number of riot victims have changed their Assembly constituencies as they fear that they will not be able to exercise their franchise from their native villages.
The two main contenders appear to be Kadir Rana and Sanjiv Baliyan though their rivals are trying to make it a four-cornered contest.