Smouldering Bareilly – The wages of Muslim appeasement

via The Pioneer Edit Desk published on March 16, 2010

For the past fortnight, Bareilly has been in tumult. A section of the city’s Muslim leadership has been bent upon provocation and violence. On March 2, it began the trouble by organising a religious procession through predominantly Hindu neighbourhoods and resorted to threatening gestures and slogans. Since then, despite a tepid attempt by the district administration to restore order, wild mobs have been attacking Hindu-owned shops in this Uttar Pradesh town. They have put in place a virtual economic blockade of the Hindu community with essential supplies, even milk for little children, being blocked. The response of the political establishment has been extraordinarily recreant. The Congress has been at sixes and sevens trying to explain it away as an attempt by the BSP Government to encourage Muslim fanaticism, stir up a Hindu counter-reaction and thereby benefit the BJP! If that theory is not convoluted enough, there are the BSP and the SP, keen that a BJP fact-finding mission be denied entry into Bareilly Tand ready to shed crocodile tears for Muslims but unwilling to do anything meaningful. The role of the media is even more shameful. With some exceptions, the murderous throngs of Bareilly have been virtually blacked out. One-sided arson, loot and mayhem, a scary display of the Direct Action Day mindset, is being presented as a clash between two groups! The radicalisation of a new generation of Muslims in the heartland of India and its seemingly easy embrace of jihadi fanaticism is going intellectually uncontested and unchallenged by India’s so-called social and political elite. This is the larger tragedy that, in a sense, dwarfs the sad saga of the little girls and boys of Bareilly, huddled in a corner, shivering on hearing the blood-curdling chants on the streets outside, their parents desperately rationing food and milk.

There is a greater implication to the violence in Bareilly. In recent weeks, particularly after the Telangana crisis, there has been much talk of a trifurcation or even further break-up of Uttar Pradesh. Various formulations have been thrown up. These include a territory in western Uttar Pradesh that is being loosely called ‘Harit Pradesh’ and is an expansion of the earlier proposal for ‘Rohilkhand’. Senior politicians, ranging from Ms Mayawati to Mr Ajit Singh, have supported this cartographic exercise. Others have pointed out that, unless suitably designed and gerrymandered, a State of this nature in the current western Uttar Pradesh will upset the religious balance. It will provide ammunition to the sort of militant clerics who have fomented the violence in Bareilly. Viewed from this perspective, this past fortnight’s events have been a warning.

For the moment, it is essential that the besieged citizens of Bareilly be rescued from the menacing militia that more or less hold them hostage. This is not a time for name-calling and for the Congress and the BSP to score points. A crackdown on the ringleaders and the restoration of what in the old days used to be called the majesty of the law are essential in Bareilly. A city that was a byword for religious tension in the 1980s and even early-1990s cannot be forced into that nightmare again. For the Congress, which is attempting to win back mainstream Hindu support in Uttar Pradesh after a lull of two decades, Bareilly offers a test case. If it succumbs again to Muslim blackmail, its claims of a new, enlightened politics will be held up to ridicule.

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