At a time panchayat elections are being held in Uttar Pradesh, the communal cauldron is all set to boil again in the state with the submission of the inquiry report on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
The inquiry report on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots was submitted by the Vishnu Sahai Commission to the Governor this week.
The report does not exclusively blame any one political party or outfit but holds the local leaders of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Samajwadi Party for instigating the riots.
The report says that BJP and SP leaders at the local level addressed the community panchayats and gave provocative speeches that unleashed full blown riots in western Uttar Pradesh with Muzaffarnagar as the epicentre.
Communal clashes emerged between the majority and the minority communities after an eve teasing incident came to light in August 2013.
The initial disturbances got aggravated and led to three murders in Kanwal village on 27 August 2013, after which there was a spate of violence between the two communities leading to massive riots.
The inquiry commission report is of the view that a major cause of the riots was the inefficiency of the local administration.
The report says that the local administration ineptly handled the matter and was not able to contain the communal clashes.
The report points out that the riots could have been averted if the local officials had made efforts at the ground level to stop the communal clashes.
It says that no efforts were made by the district administration to defuse the tension between the two communities.
The officials did not even make the minimum effort to check the spread of hate messages by jamming mobile networks.
Since the mobile network was available, hate messages and rumours were floated quickly, leading to a major escalation of the prevailing tension and violence.
The BJP, which has been blamed in the report, has rejected the findings.
BJP MLA Sangeet Som, one of the accused in the riots, has rejected the report as “biased and premeditated”.
“I completely reject this report. I don’t think it is of any significance,” he said, while also questioning the “veracity” of the report.
“I want to ask why the commission of inquiry did not make us a part of the probe? Did it take our inputs? We have sufficient proof against SP leaders and officers responsible for the Muzaffarnagar riots but we were never asked to appear before the panel,” he said.
Som and another BJP MLA, Suresh Rana, were among those arrested for instigating the riots.
The Samajwadi Party, meanwhile, insists that most of the leaders involved in the riots belong to the BJP.
The SP has also accused the BJP leadership of “defending, honouring and even rewarding” the accused leaders. SP’s Gaurav Bhatia, however, said that if anyone from SP is found guilty, the party leadership will take action against him and not defend the accused like the BJP.
There is speculation that the findings of the report, which holds BJP partly responsible for the riots, may polarise Hindu votes in favour of it. The SP, experts believe, will use the report findings to corner the BJP and mobilise the Muslim votes ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections.
Meanwhile the Bahujan Samaj Party has said that the inquiry report was deliberately released ahead of the panchayat polls as it would benefit the BJP and the SP. “We know this is a BJP-SP game plan because the report was in the making for exactly two years and has been submitted to coincide with the elections,” BSP supremo Mayawati said.
Mayawati also demanded strict action against those named guilty in the report. She said that the report should be made public at the earliest because SP and BJP had colluded in the riots.
“The Muzaffarnagar riots are a perfect example of the laxity shown by the Samajwadi Party and its connivance with the BJP. Due to the riots, which later spread to Shamli, Meerut and Saharanpur districts, a number of Muslims were displaced,” she said in a statement here.
The Congress has also demanded action against those who “participated, perpetrated and instigated” the riots.
The Sahai report, which is divided into six sections and runs into 775 pages has been prepared after recording 377 witnesses from the public and members of various political parties and over a 100 government officials.
The riot had led to 62 casualties. Among those who died were 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus. The communal clashes had led to the displacement of more than 50,000 people.