Just what triggered another mob violence – after Muzaffarnagar – on Friday in Uttar Pradesh? Was it a loudspeaker at a Dalit temple opposed by Muslims or the huge Dalit vote-bank that is up for grabs after the decimation of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party in the last Lok Sabha elections?
As the authorities removed a loudspeaker from a Dalit temple in a village near Kanth town in Moradabad, armed mobs led by some junior state leaders of the BJP started the fire.
The result: Many policemen and officials, including the district magistrate, were injured in mob-police clashes.
But could the dispute have been settled quickly at the village level?
After the order to remove the loudspeaker was issued, the administration allowed a week to pass till the BJP came up with a Friday Mahapanchayat plan. The aim, clearly, was to consolidate its clout among the Dalits.
The authorities — given the Muzaffarnagar experience — banned it. And it was enough for some senior state leaders of the BJP — riot-tainted BJP MP Sangeet Som being one of them — to force a march to Kanth.
For, the next big political event in UP is the by-elections to 12 assembly seats. With BSP chief Mayawati having made it clear that her party would not contest this time, it will be a bipolar fight between the BJP and the ruling Samajwadi Party.
This explains the hurried muscle flexing by the state administration.
“We have enough force to deal with any odd situation and would not allow anyone to take law into their hands,” Moradabad police chief Dharamveer said on Thursday even when efforts were being made for a compromise deal.
A day after Friday’s clashes, Dharamveer blamed BJP MP Sarvesh Singh for the incident although Singh and the SP legislator of Kanth, Aneesur Rehman, tried to strike a deal to avoid the Mahapanchayat.
But a dominant section of BJP leaders refused to accept the compromise deal and accused Singh, instead, of surrendering to the rival community.
A senior BJP leader admitted on condition of anonymity: “We did not expect violence of such scale, which has put us on the back-foot.”