Muzaffarnagar continues to singe Mulayam's Delhi dreams

Muzaffarnagar/Lucknow, Oct 8 (IANS) The Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh continues to be singed by the riots in Muzaffarnagar. Even as it works out plans to restore normalcy in the countryside and hands out doles like insurance, financial aid and government jobs to those affected by the riots that killed 62 and displaced over 45,000, the anti-SP sentiment refuses to die down.

Not surprisingly, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has alleged that the communal violence in the area last month was "state-sponsored" and hundreds of women in the area lay siege of the collectorate campus as Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav led a team of ministers.

In Lucknow to observe the 79th birth anniversary of late farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, the BKU said that the state government was fomenting sectarian tension in the area and dared it to arrest the people who had initially ordered the release of the accused in molestation and the murder of two local youths.

"The government officials are working in a one-sided manner at the behest of powerful ministers, including one who behaves as a super chief minister," BKU spokesman Rakesh Tikait told IANS. During his visit as head of a 10-member ministerial team, Shivpal Singh Yadav faced a hostile reception at Shamli on Sunday as the villagers alleged that the district administration was acting against only "one specific community".

Women from Malendi and Lank villages told the minister that many houses in villages had been deserted as the people feared reprisals by the police. The police were also targeting physically challenged individuals and children, the women alleged. Faced with a barrage of questions, the minister was closeted with district officials for over 20 minutes, after which he assured the crowd that nobody will be falsely implicated.

The minister, who is the younger brother of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, also faced a hostile crowd of Muslims after he went to the house of local leader and former minister Anuradha Chowdhary. Jamiat Ulema representatives left in a huff after tearing off the memorandum they had brought to submit to Yadav.

They said the minister was at the house of a leader who had in 2009 held a rally of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. SP leaders admit that their problems with regard to western Uttar Pradesh were far from over. "It is a reality that the public sentiment on both sides is against us, we hope that a visit in the near future by Neta-ji (Mulayam Singh) will settle the matter and soothe ruffled feathers" said a minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government.

The area, also the sugar belt of the state, has been seething with anger against Mohammed Azam Khan, a powerful minister and in-charge of Muzaffarnagar as locals allege that it was at his behest that the local police did not act against the accused in a molestation case which later flared up into a communal situation.

"Nothing is being done against the minister even as a sting operation of the television channel has policemen saying openly that the minister had asked him to stay quiet and let things happen," alleged Tikait. The slapping of the National Security Act (NSA) on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana has further stoked the anti-SP sentiment.

"The government is behaving in a most biassed and unpardonable manner, while innocent opposition leaders are being jailed under NSA and other accused in the FIRs of another community are being flown into the state capital on special planes and are meeting the chief minister," BJP spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak told IANS, adding that such actions were further polarizing the area and vitiating the state's polity.

Earlier during his visit to the riot-hit area last month, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was shown black flags and anti-government slogans were raised when Shivpal Yadav visited some relief camps in Muzaffarnagar. Mualayam Singh Yadav has twice postponed his proposed trips to the area owing to "negative feedback" from the local leaders.

Riots broke out in Muzaffaragar and neighbouring areas September 7, leaving 62 dead and thousands homeless and displaced. The army had to be called in and even Akhilesh Yadav admitted that the blot of the riots would forever haunt his political career. Party strategists feel that unless something tangible happens, Mulayam's Delhi dreams could be the next causality of the mistrust in the region against the ruling party.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

--Indo-Asian News service

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