Western Uttar Pradesh is reporting a change of heart. In the area which was ravaged by large scale violence against Muslims three and half years back, there is a growing realization in the people of the majority community, here Jats, that they were misled into violence.In a TV show, Hindu Jats say that there was no malice between them anymore. Muslims concurred.
All this is very welcome. This is happening in a situation in which a major political party, which is ruling at the centre has openly decided to sow fresh seeds of suspicion and hatred against Muslims in the Hindu minds. It is promising anti-Romeo squads, implicit message being that Hindu girls are under constant threat of being lured, or worse looted by the Muslim men. A lie is being peddled by its leaders that Muslims are forcing Hindus to flee from places like Kairana and there is an imminent danger of Muslims turning into a majority in this area. Add to it its pledge to build Ram Mandir in the place of the demolished Babri Masjid once it gets the throne of Uttar Pradesh.A large narrative of an incomplete task of correcting a historical wrong, peppered with small narratives of contemporary local insecurities.All living Muslims become the descendents of the temple plunderers who carry the legacy of insulting, dominating Hindus in their own land. So, history cannot be rectified without making the present perfect.
Not only the above mentioned TV show, journalists visiting this area to cover the campaign leading to the assembly election report sorrow and anger in the Jat Hindus that they were fooled and made to turn against their Muslims neighbors. Hindus, if one believes the reporters, and there is no reason why we should not, are quite vocal about it. Muslims nod their heads in agreement. But if one reads the reports carefully it can be seen from the reaction of the Muslims that they want to believe that it is not a temporary shift in the mood of their erstwhile fellow villagers.
So, we need to pause before celebrating this peace-turn. We ought to think about the process through which this understanding was achieved.Only then would we be able to say anything about the nature and quality of this enlarging of the societal heart of the Western Uttar Pradesh. Also, whether this re- discovered communal amity would last or not.
We also see at least two parties,The Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Bahujan Samaj Party talking about the violence and the designs to deepen the divide between Hindus and Muslims are appealing to them not to fall a prey to it again. The Samajvadi party and the Congress are vague in their reference to the three year old violence. They refrain from uttering the M word. Broad calls to not allow Uttar Pradesh to be divided can be heard from their platforms.
What is interesting is that Muslims also donot want to be talked about.They are cautious. They know that if they are put on the agenda, it would automatically become communal. And their patience is being applauded. This is what they had done in Bihar. They did not open their mouth even in the face of a provocative propaganda led by no less a man then the Prime Minister of India.
It is being said that the central ruling party is becoming restless by this turn of events. With overt anti-Muslim talk failing to excite the earth bound Jats, secret,late night meeting are being organized.We donot know the content of these deliberation but knowing who is leading it, we can be sure that it is definitely not about love and amity and neither about bread and butter issues.
We hear that Jats from adjoining states are visiting. Their anger resulting out of the response of the ruling party to their demand of reservation is being shared by the Jats of Western Uttar Pradesh.They see this election as an opportunity to teach a lesson to this arrogant party.
Demonatisation is also being said to be playing its role. Sudden and forced withdrawal of cash when they needed it most, for buying seeds and other supplements for farming,has severely affected them.
This has added to their feeling of being cheated and left to their own resources to deal with the situation arising out the violence three years back. Let us turn back.
Three years back, there were rumours of a Hindu girl being harassed by Muslim boys . Hindus went to the Muslim area to confront them and it led to the murder of Hindu and subsequently Muslim boys. Temperature rose.The atmosphere was made tense and heated with rumour mongering doing its job. Large panchayats were organized with talks of showing the Muslims their true place. Loot, burning, murder and rapes followed. Muslims fled from their villages. Relief camps came up. Muslims became refugees in their own land.
The ruling party of Uttar Pradesh, which is described as a pro-Muslim party did not have the courage to meet the communal challenge. Not only this party, all other parties also did not have guts to tell the Jats that a wrong , an a grievous one, is being committed. It is not only crime, what we see is sin. We did not hear these words. All parties froze into inaction in the face of this Hindu anger.
Short cuts were taken. Instead of starting a dialogue with the excited Hindus, leading them into a process of introspection, encouraging them to call back their Muslim co-villagers, show remorse , the government asked the shelterless Muslims to accept a compensation package which meant that they would not go back to their own villages from where they were forced out. It resulted in large scale segregation of populations.Religion became the principle of neighborhood. Security from violence became the paramount concern.
The process of rebuilding of lives of the Muslims turned into an essentially Muslim project. The much maligned secular civil society groups and individuals did their bit but it could not have been sufficient. The resource rich Swamis and Babas, who claim that they speak for the humanity and not any religion did not appeal to the goodness of their followers,neither did Christian or Jain or Buddhists showed fellow feeling.
Meanwhile the mechanical wheel of law turned, slightly reluctantly and looting, rapes, murders could not have taken place without people doing it, even if in a fit of rage.So,arrests took place.Young men went to jail. And the elders found themselves left to their own resources to deal with this situation they could not foresee.
The organization and the leaders who had lit the fire thought initially that these arrests would further intensify the sense of injustice in the Hindus. Compensation to the displaced had already made Hindus feel that Muslims were being favoured. But arrests and criminal cases were something different. For cases to be fought, you would need to hire lawyers and it requires money. All those who roared to restore Hindu pride showed little interest in this insipid task of helping their Hindu fellows. This had led to a process of disenchantment, especially in the elderly from the defenders of the Hindu might. They feel resourceless and the talk of Hindu dominance sounds hollow to them.
Is Hindu solidarity only to be seen when Muslims or Christians are to be attacked? Why does it not work in normal situation? This is not to suggest that Hindu or Muslim solidarities are to be forged separately but it is natural for those who had participated in the collective Hindu act of violence ,to ask why have they now been left to deal with its aftermath in secular individuality.
What we see then it is a set of circumstances that had led to the ‘de-communalisation’ of this area. We are happy with it. At the same time one needs to remain alive to the fact that political and social organizations, by and large, felt not strong enough to talk to the Hindus, were unable to bring back Muslims to their original habitats. New borders have been drawn. It is not only Muslims who have been forced to acclimatize to a new environment but also Hindus who have to learn to live without Muslim presence.
Lives have been impoverished psychologically,emotionally. It is god of time we look towards to heal the wounds and set us back on right path. The fact that human intervention in the direction of goodness has largely been absent should keep us awake to the not yet attempted task of creation of fellow feeling.Unless our politics gathers courage for this, we would be left to the mercy of the elements. Then our basic humanity would remain in question.
- National Herald, February, 2017