October 24, 2005

Mau reflects cultural intolerance

Organiser-23 October2005

Mau reflects cultural intolerance

Sandhya Jain



The unexpected outbreak of organized communal rioting in the Mau district of Uttar Pradesh, leaving 12 dead and several dozen injured in over four days of uncontrolled violence, despite the organizers of the Bharat Milap procession cancelling the 13 October show in the interest of social harmony, indicates a cultural intolerance that does not bode well for India. Political parties would do well to consider if this is part of a concerted strategy to enhance the growth of minority conclaves in India by driving out native populations through the systematic use of terror, a weapon used in Assam and other states.



Political parties wooing Muslim votebanks through the promise of 5% reservation benefits may also consider how far they can rise by encouraging the growth of such communal poison in the country. For sooner, rather than later, voters of their own core caste-based constituencies will be victimized and deprived of their lands and livelihoods, and there is no way that minority votebanks can compensate for the loss of Hindu votes, though the presence of minority bloc voting certainly facilitates victory. But as Congress is learning in Assam, Muslims are quick to desert the political ladders they climb once they perceive they have the numbers and power to do without them. Assam’s 2006 elections will expose the direction of religion-driven politics, the outcome of which can only be lethal.



So slow was the UP Government to respond to the riots that dozens of residents fled to adjoining districts of Ghazipur, Gorakhpur and Azamgarh in apprehension of fresh violence. Hundreds are seeking security in numbers by clustering together in makeshift shelters in fields and near railway lines, preferring the open spaces to their homes in the old congested bylanes of the town.



It is said that violence began when Muslims observing Roza protested at loudspeakers playing Hindu devotional songs on the occasion of Bharat Milap. This cultural intolerance that is regularly displayed on the occasion of Hindu festivals, even as Muslims spill over on to public roads and footpaths for the Friday namaaz, needs to be confronted. It bears noting that currently in Bangladesh, the rapidly depleting and terrorized Hindu community agreed to make itself publicly invisible on festive occasions, in order to placate the aggressive Muslim majority. Clearly the Muslims of Mau wanted, through a display of extreme bigotry, to force Hindus to not celebrate auspicious dharmic functions and surrender their community identity for the sake of a false communal harmony. This is what Mahatma Gandhi called the peace of the grave.



It is high time we called a spade a spade and examined the link between burgeoning ISI activity in UP and other states and the growth of fundamentalist intolerance. The courts must also consider, when riot related cases come before them, why a local Muslim MLA was allowed to prevent police action against rioters for four whole days, before media coverage compelled action.



Shops and establishments were looted with impunity, and a Dalit colony attacked in the early hours of the morning and jhuggies set on fire, which clearly indicates premeditated action on the part of the assailant group. A temple was set on fire in the Kamaria locality, and we need to have a public debate on whether modern India is willing to countenance once again the medieval-style iconoclasm and vandalism of its holy places.



Local independent MLA Mukhtar Ansari, who was finally booked for inciting the riots, shamelessly blamed the Hindu Mahasabha for tension in the city, even though police officials told the media that it was he who prevented them from taking firm action to bring the riots under control in a timely manner. Ansari, who has 36 criminal cases and a TADA conviction against him, moved about the city in an open Gypsy van, accompanied by armed henchmen, despite curfew and shoot at sight orders. Naturally, the mobs owing allegiance to him had a field day.



Much damage was done by the time Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav finally moved to suspend the Divisional Commissioner, Deputy Inspector General of Police, District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police for failure to quell the rioting within 48 hours. But the fact that Mukhtar Ansari is known to have close links with Mr. Yadav, and that this acted as a dampener on the police officials and district magistrate in the initial days of the violence, has done irrevocable damage to the Chief Minister’s prestige.



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