Mulayam chastises Azam Khan over Muzaffarnagar riots

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Photo: Shailendra Pandey
Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav reprimanded Azam Khan in front of his Cabinet colleagues in a meeting of the 10-member ‘harmony committee’. Khan has been in the eye of a storm after he allegedly leaned on the district administration and police in Muzaffarnagar to go easy on some men from his community who were accused of various criminal acts during the Hindu-Muslim violence that claimed over 50 lives in the district last month. He also blamed the district administration for the riots in Muzaffarnagar and opposed the constitution of the committee.

Mulayam asked Azam Khan whether he considered himself above the party and whether he was a part of the solution or the problem. He also ordered Khan to behave and work to restore normalcy in Muzaffarnagar. The party is keeping a close watch on Khan, who has been asked to stay away from Muzaffarnagar, until directed otherwise by the Chief Minister or the party chief, even though he is the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Muzaffarnagar district.

Immediately after the meeting, Azam Khan headed to the residence of Shivpal Yadav and was with him for over an hour. Then he visited his bête noire Zafaryab Jilani, the convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and Additional Advocate General of UP. He also met his archenemy Raja Bhaiya alias Raghuraj Pratap Singh and urged him to visit Kheda village, Meerut where Rajputs are up in arms against the government after the detention of Sangeet Som, the BJP MLA from the area.  These meetings indicate that Khan is eager to mend fences with his colleagues in the party whom he had earlier berated.

His supporters, however, described these as courtesy visits to invite them for the ‘Jashn-e-Jauhar’ event in Jauhar University, Rampur on 19 and 20 October. Jauhar University is a private university and Azam Khan is its lifelong Chancellor.

Following the controversy, a senior minister said, “The party leadership not only kept him away from the post-riots efforts to restore normalcy in the district, but also restrained him from visiting Muzaffarnagar. How can he be allowed to visit the riot-hit district? He is regarded as the man behind the riots by both Hindus and Muslims. People will pour out on the streets if he goes to the district. Effigies of Azam Khan were burnt during the Kheda Panchayat in Meerut on 30 September and he has been squarely blamed for the riots. Moreover, protests by Muslims against Azam Khan’s visit to Muzaffarnagar will have disastrous consequences for the SP in the  2014 parliament elections as he is considered the Muslim face of the party. Apprehending protests, the party has also put on hold Mulayam’s visit to Muzaffarnagar. In fact, the ‘harmony committee’ has been constituted specifically to prepare the ground for the SP supremo’s visit.”

Samajwadi Party sources, however, claimed that Azam Khan would soon have the opportunity to demonstrate that he is the supreme Muslim leader of the party. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Chief Minister will be in Rampur on 19 October to participate in ‘Jashn-e-Jauhar’, where the former will distribute laptops to students.

Publicly though, Yadav has maintained that Khan, who is the SP’s biggest Muslim leader, is still very close to him. Yadav’s son Akhilesh even drove down to Khan’s residence last month after Khan had made a public display of his anger with the government for keeping him out of the administrative response to the violence in Muzaffarnagar.

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