Sectarian disturbances take place only when someone fans the fire of animosities that have existed for a certain length of time. Given this, the discovery in Muzaffarnagar of the bodies of three persons who were killed after a great deal of torture is sufficient cause for worry. The administration, on its part, has said there is no reason to suspect any communal angle to this, at least at this stage. However, incidents such as these can be exploited, and it might lead to a flare-up if the state government does not act in time. The district has not experienced real peace since the violence in September last year, followed by highly inadequate relief measures. Next, the incidents of Muzaffarnagar were put to inappropriate use by some political elements, making worse a highly volatile environment. Then only two days ago there was violence between Jats and Dalits over a trivial matter that was being adjudicated by a panchayat, run by caste bodies.
In the present case, preserving peace, which is the job of the state government anyway, holds high stakes for the Samajwadi Party (SP) dispensation in UP. First, it received considerable flak for being caught flat-footed last year in Muzaffarnagar. It was so much on the wrong foot that it could never really build up a defence for itself, leading to the SP’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections. However, in the case of the Saharanpur disturbances in July, when a plot of land was supposed to be the reason for a dispute between two communities, the state government had been quick to act and was able to minimise the casualties. It also ensured that violence did not spread in the way it did last year. The adjoining districts, Meerut and Moradabad, are particularly known for being prone to this malaise. If the government could do it then, it surely can now.
Even if the administration is correct in virtually ruling out any communal aspect in this case, it is certainly a law and order problem, on which UP’s performance has left much to be desired. From the facts available, it is clear that the murders had been planned over a length of time. If a person feels his or her life is under threat, the nearest police station is the first port of call. But many choose not to complain because of their fast-diminishing faith in the police. This is a matter that the state government should seriously look into.