Pankaj Kumar Jha, Sanjeev Kumar, Devarati Roy Chowdhury
Hindu ya Muslim ke ehsasat ko mat chodiye
apni kursi ke liye jazzbat ko mat chodiye
Galtiyaan baaber ki thi, jumman ka ghar phir kyon jale
Aise najuk waqt mein halaat ko mat chodiye.
- Adam Gondavi
(do not leave the emotions of Hindus and Muslims,
do not leave your feelings for the love of your chair.
Babar did the mistakes, Why Jumman’s houses are on fire,
in such a vulnerable moment, do not run away from the situation)
These lines, from a poem of folk poet Adam Gondvai, aptly suit the political environment of the western Uttar Pradesh and specially the region of Muzaffarnagar. Today the politics of caste-religion, hindu-muslim, upper caste - lower caste is at its peak. And, our research quest had made us to analyze the ground and the political atmosphere. London School of Economics through their research project ECCURI had given Pankaj, the opportunity to closely follow the panchayati raj and vidhan sabha elections of India. And, that is why in this new endeavour, we are trying to present and reflect upon the basic questions of democratic politics differently and we are starting this initiative with the analysis of UP assembly election. So, we started our journey from a village Kawal which is 10 kms away from the Muzaffarnagar and Kawal is the place where in 2013 the hindu-muslim riot begun. After crossing the Gang canal as we reached the village, we met an old man name Yasin who was running a tea shop at the chowk of the village. We started conversing with him and after few customary questions as we asked him about the 2013 riots. He got very angry and said that what you wanted to know about the riots? After he bit calmed down, he said ‘the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar begun from this village Kawal. The soil of the village is still stained with the blood. Those days were really horrifying for us. Today also, whenever I remember those days my heart sunk. Everybody, young men, kids, old men left the village. Our business was badly affected and closed for more than one month. I was also terrified and went to my daughter’s house in Mirzapur ’. These words of Yasin literally shook us from inside. Yasin did not stop there. He further said ‘we, all hindus and muslims want to live in peace but they do only politics’. Here, probably we do not have to explain who is ‘they’ whom Yasin is referring to. However, the teary eyes of Yasin was questioning us. Why our own representatives see everything from the eyes of a vote bank only? Why our academic and journalistic spheres only talk about the polarization of muslims and their voting behavior at the time of election?
75 years old Yasin. Photo courtesy – Ankit Kumar, IESAI Team.
What was the matter?
Remembering the riots in the Kawal village local resident Hussain said – ‘infact this was the result of the personal animosity of the two groups. The Jaat youths of the neighbouring villages killed the butcher of the Kawal village. In return, the villagers of Kawal murdered those 5-6 youths. After that, the jaats called the panchayat near the Gang canal and riots occurred ’. Hussain was in deep pain while saying all this.
Whole village was converted into police cantonment.
Jeetan belongs to Jaatav community of the Ambedkar Chowk, Kawal village and when he remembers that incident, he says ‘at the time of riots whole village has been converted to a police cantonment. Hundreds of police men were deployed at thana jansath-janpad Muzaffarnagar. Police were doing patrolling continuously. We never saw anything like this before in our village. Most of the villagers had left their home. Only few people are still staying here. Curfew was there in whole village. It seems whole village is mourning. Our job, business everything was ruined. For almost three months everything was completely closed. We were pennyless ’.
Police Chowki Kawal, Thana – Jaansath Janpad- Muzaffarnagar, Photo Courtesy-Ankit Kumar, IESAI Team.
Many people migrated from this area
While talking to Jeetan we got the glimpses of the problems of the migrations. It should be noted that due to the riots of 2013, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli regions’ Hindu Muslim community migrated to Dehradun, Panipat, Muzaffarnagar, Rurki, Karnaal etc. The number of migrated people runs to thousands. Non-governmental organization Aman Biraddari and Afkar India did an extensive research on this. Their research states that almost 50,000 people migrated from Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and nearby areas.
Kawal, Thana- Jaansath Janpad- Muzaffarnagar, Photo Courtesy- Ankit Kumar, IESAI Team.
Hindu Muslim are the two wheels of a vehicle.........
The articles related to academic and journalistic sphere reflect only one aspect. But when you go to the field then you really see that despite the riots people of both the communities still live in harmony and share love and peace and want to live like this only. They hate riots Talking about the spoiled relations of Hindu-Muslim after the riots, Valmiki community resident Navjeevan said that ‘how much violence and riots might happen but the atmosphere between hindus and muslims within the village had remained cordial. 2013 riots was just an incident. Hindu-Muslim are like the two wheels of the same vehicle. Let people try so much, but they cannot make a vehicle run without its wheel’. Definitely, such thought of Navjeevan is like a ray of hope for this whole region and a society which believe in equality has a great faith on it.
Hindu Muslim riots in academic discourse
In the works on the hindu-muslim riots happened in the northern colonial India, eminent were the works of Ashutosh Varshney, Paul R. Brass, Asgar Ali Enginner. Ashutosh Varshney in his book, Ethnic Conflict and Civil Life Hindus and Muslim in India, did the comparative study of the Aligarh-Calicut (Kozhikode), Hyderabad- Lucknow, Ahmadabad- Surat and said that communal riots are an urban phenomenon and the real reason behind such incidents are the communal feelings of the civic associations. It should be noted that famous political scientist Paul R. Brass in his book, titled The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, claims that the institutional riot system are responsible for the riots in which the riots have been planned and managed by the politics and the leaders.
However, much beyond the academic discourse and ground findings, we asked a very interesting question to the people of Muzaffarnagar.
Why Muzaffarnagar votes?
We are not interested in knowing that whom you are going to cast your vote or whom you will vote. Probably that is why we asked to the Muzaffarnagr people that why do you vote? I took this question from the recently published book titled Why India Votes of Mukulika Banaerjee where in a very lively and interesting way the question why you vote in the elections has been dealt upon. A very interesting answer came from local resident Razzak who said that – ‘in democracy, identity and the right one gets through casting his vote. One common man when he elects his representative through the vote for the very first time he realizes that he is something. He has the identity. He has the power to make or ruin a government. He holds the power to decide the future of the country’.
Muzaffarnagar presents few fundamental questions to the India’s political, academic and journalistic community. For how long this region of western UP including Muzaffarnagar will lure the political leaders on the basis of muslim vote bank and politics of polarization? For how long hindu muslim relations will be seen only with a lens of violence? Even after the Muzaffarnagar riots, can we still see the communal riots as a urban phenomenon only? Whether the fellow journalists will only restrict themselves to the question that muslim vote will go where? All these questions are really serious and intense and always there is a possibility for discourse and dialogue on this aspect.
Alas, the whole region of Muzaffarnagar is suffering with the acute problems of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and other basic problems. Here approx 30 % people are muslims and they continuously ask few questions to our developmental state. And, our academic and journalistic world has given very less attention to all these. In all these, again the lines of poet Adam Gondavi, ‘chediye ek jung, mil jul kar garibi ke khilaaf dost, mere majhabi nagmaat ko mat chediye’, (lets again go for war, a united war against poverty, but let’s not spoil the communal peace) become acutely relevant and cannot be neglected.
1. Ashutosh Varshney (2002) Ethnic Conflict and Civil Life Hindus and Muslim in India, Yale University Press.
2. Zoya Hasan (2016), Kairana and the Politics of Exclusion, October 17th, The Hindu.
3. Mukulika Banerjee (2014), Why India Votes, Routledge, New Delhi, London.
4. Paul Brass (2003), The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, University of Washington Press.
Pankaj Kumar Jha received his Doctorate from the Department of Political Science, University Of Delhi. Through the IESAI Network he is trying to understand and analyze the democratic discourse of Uttar Pradesh.
Sanjeev Kumar is working as an Assistant Professor in Department of Political Science, SPM College, University of Delhi. He is the core team member of IESAI.
Devarati Roy Chowdhury is pursuing her Ph.D from the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi and is a core team member of IESAI.