The mob lynching of Mohammed Ikhlaq at his house in Bisada village appears to have communally polarised the region just ahead of the panchayat elections scheduled for October 13 in the nearby Hapur district in western Uttar Pradesh.
Dhaulana block in Hapur is near Bisada and famous for the Hindu dominated belt of Satha - a group of 60 villages also comprising Muslim Rajputs.
The Muslim community members in Dhaulana said they have seen a lot of bloodshed during the past 2-3 years under the tenure of Samajwadi Party government in the state. The local panchayat polls have no candidate directly fielded by any party, but the contestants do have outside support from various political parties.
“The Bisada incident has fuelled sentiments against the Samajwadi Party government. If our issues continue, the same pattern would be witnessed in 2017 assembly elections. Following the recent murder, we were trying for a big meeting but decided against it. Members of our community often face humiliation in the name of cow slaughter and also face atrocities at the hands of other communities. We cannot explain our pain,” said Jangi Rana, village head from the Muslim-dominated Dehra village in Dhaulana block.
Bisada falls under the administrative jurisdiction of Gautam Budh Nagar but is also part of the Satha belt that has a history of leading fights against the British.
“Some local politicians often spit venom against our community and their actions tell that they want a divide between the Hindus and the Muslims in order to garner votes in 2017,” said Ishte Pradhan, husband of a panchayat polls candidate.
During the last state elections, Dhaulana seat was won by SP. The area also forms part of the parliamentary constituency of minister of state general VK Singh (retired) who won from Ghaziabad on a BJP ticket.
Locals said that the Bisada incident has polarised the Muslim votes and any Muslim candidate will be their preferred choice, especially in Dhaulana. They said that the brutal murder has become a talking point among the community even in far-flung villages.
“It is not even imaginable how a handful of Muslims living in Bisada could resort to cow slaughtering amid a dominant Hindu population,” said Mobin Thekedar, Dehra resident.
The issue of cow slaughter is sentimental, especially in the western UP belt. During a 2014 general election rally on April 3 in Ghaziabad, PM Narendra Modi had coined the term ‘Pink revolution’. Modi had used the term to attack UPA government for encouraging beef export.
The Dhaulana block has five wards. Out of the five, two wards have Muslim women contesting from seats reserved for women.
“The repeated incidents have led our community to go for our own candidate. All these riots have taken place during the rule of SP government. Be it Muzaffarnagar or the riots in neighbouring Masuri where six people were shot dead in direct (alleged) police firing.
However, people near NTPC Dadri were fired on their legs,” Thekedar added.
During the Dadri violence on September 27, 21-year-old Rahul Yadav sustained a bullet injury allegedly in police firing.
The local SP district president Kishan Singh Tomar, however, said that the state government was doing its bit to provide relief to the victim family at Bisada.
“Our government is providing full financial help as well as rehabilitation for the victims. Tension has spread from Bisada to nearby areas and to the entire state. However, our party had been getting support from Muslims and will also get it in future elections. We are also trying to nullify the effects of hate speeches delivered by politicians,” Tomar said.
On the other hand, locals from the Hindu community said that it would be difficult to ascertain any polarisation of Hindu votes during the panchayat election.
“The polls will be more on the basis of caste and nearness of locals with candidates. There are some from the community who will also vote for Muslims. Something, with intent to create divide between two groups, keeps happening here often. However, locals always move on,” said Ram Krishan Sharma, a retired teacher.