Women of 84 villages of Muzaffarnagar district have come together to give a call for a ‘mahapanchyat’ at Kutba village on 10 October against the allegedly biased actions of the administration and the framing of Jat youth and community elders.
A mahapanchayat in the district on 7 September has been blamed for the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining districts of Shamli, Bagpat and Meerut. A gathering at Kheda village, Meerut on 29 September to protest against BJP MLA Sangeet Som’s arrest also led to violence in the area.
Since 25 September, women of villages in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli district have organised protests at a dozen places and held panchayats demanding an end to the framing of innocent youth in criminal cases. In a panchayat held in riot-affected Kutba village, women gave a notice to the district administration to withdraw the supposedly fake FIRs naming village youths. They also resolved to fight the battle in the streets if the police did not stop the atrocities against community members. Similar meetings were held in many villages of Shamli district where girl students burnt school textbooks and notebooks.
The government claimed that the proposed mahapanchyat in Muzaffarnagar had been banned and that prohibitory orders had been enforced in the entire district. “The organisers of the panchayat have placed certain conditions before the district administration which are being looked into. In view of the prevailing situation in the district, permission for the panchayat cannot be granted,” said RK Vishwakarma, IG (Law and Order). When pointed out that despite the two earlier panchayats (on 7 and 29 September) being banned, the police failed to prevent the gatherings, he repeated, “The panchayat will not be allowed as the ban has been imposed by the district administration.”
Admitting to the administrative and political failure in the riots, a senior SP leader said, “People are asking the obvious question as to why Mulayam Singh Yadav has not yet visited the riot-affected areas in Muzaffarnagar. The visit was planned twice, but was called off. This has sent a bad message. The Chief Minister did visit Muzaffarnagar a day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s visit, but people believe that he came only because of the PM and Sonia Gandhi.”
“The party is politically so bankrupt that we had to take the help of Congress leaders in approaching the senior Muslim clerics of Muzaffarnagar,” he added. Salamatullah, a senior Congress leader of Delhi and former chairman of the Central Haj Committee had arranged the meeting of the Muslim clerics of Muzaffarnagar with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. He had arranged a chartered aircraft for their journey from Meerut to Lucknow.
“Yes I helped them and arranged the aircraft for their journey to Lucknow as Maulana Nazir of Jansath, Muzaffarnagar asked for it,” said Salamatullah, who is known for his proximity to senior Congress leaders.
“The single biggest challenge before the government is to stop the panchayats and also send people living in relief camps back to their villages. We are doing the best we can to dispel the wrong impression of the Jat community and others that they are being framed in fake cases. So far only 186 FIRs have been lodged and in most of the cases, the police has been asked by the government to not make any arrest without a thorough investigation,” said Chaudhary Virendra Singh, member of the harmony committee constituted by the Samajwadi Party. He is a prominent leader of the Gujjar community of Muzaffarnagar and has been an MLA from Kandhala for six terms. Currently he is the Chairman of the UP Cane Seeds Corporation and has the rank of a Cabinet Minister.
The ‘harmony committee’ comprises of ten ministers of the UP government and is headed by PWD minister Shivpal Yadav. The mandate of the committee is to visit the riot-affected areas, facilitate the return of the riot-affected people from the relief camps to their respective villages and help the district administration in restoring normalcy in the district. It has so far held two meetings in Lucknow which were presided by Mulayam. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, however, was not present. The committe is scheduled to visit Muzaffarnagar on 4 October.
Senior leader Azam Khan, however, is reportedly angry at not being included in the committee despite the fact that he was the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Muzaffarnagar district. Other Muslim ministers who are members of the committee claimed that Azam Khan’s role in the communal riots had brought disrepute to the government. Mulayam Singh Yadav had to intervene to enforce truce. Defending Khan, Mulayam chastised the Muslim leaders of the party for not supporting Azam Khan when the media and opposition parties criticised him.