Two days after a mob lynched of a 50-year-old man over allegations that he stored and consumed beef in an Uttar Pradesh village, Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said on Thursday the incident was an “accident without any communal colour”, triggering sharp criticism from political rivals.
Mohammad Ikhlaq of Bisada village was beaten to death and his 22-year-old son Danish was critically injured by a 200-strong mob which barged into their house on Monday night following an announcement from loudspeakers installed in the local temple .
Sharma, who is the MP from the area, told reporters in Delhi, “I feel this incident occurred due to some misunderstanding and the law should truthfully act against whoever is responsible for it.”
A full-fledged political blame game started between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Samajwadi Party, as UP cabinet minister Azam Khan hit out at the BJP, saying the party’s strategy is to attract votes by polarising people along communal lines ahead of the 2017 state assembly elections.
“Such heinous acts may be taken as the saffron outfits’s preparation for the upcoming UP Assembly elections in 2017. They deem massacre of innocent Muslims as one of the strategies to attract electorate on communal lines,” Khan alleged.
“BJP has been inciting large scale violence in UP ahead of the assembly polls. Such incidents are occurring repeatedly after the Muzaffarnagar violence,” he said.
Reacting to SP leader’s charge, BJP MP Yogi Adityanath said the UP government was responsible for “jungle-raj” in the state. “Jungle-raj prevails in UP and the government backs the professional criminals and mafia to hide its failure. There is a complete anarchy in the state.”
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said Uttar Pradesh government was “more to blame” for the lynching incident in Dadri, than the “unruly and criminal elements” in BJP and RSS.
The state administration never tried to seriously fulfil its constitutional duty of bringing the guilty to task, she alleged.
“More than the anarchic and criminal elements in BJP-RSS, it is the Akhilesh Yadav government which is to be blamed...not just in Dadri, but at other places too. People are out to spoil the atmosphere yet the government is not taking action against them,” Mayawati said.
The Congress, for its part, accused the BJP of making UP a “communal lab” to gain electoral mileage. “UP has been made a communal lab by BJP so that they can enhance their vote bank.”
“The PM can continue to talk about development but it is extremely evident the real path of BJP is communal hatred,” said Congress leader and former Union minister RPN Singh.
The Aam Aadmi Party criticised Sharma’s comments and demanded Sharma’s removal.
AAP leader Ashutosh termed as “sinister” the chain of events leading to the killing of 50-year-old Iqlakh over alleged consumption of beef, and described it as a “conspiracy” by BJP to “break the country”.
“Mahesh Sharma should be sacked,” he said while condemning the Union minister for terming the incident an “outcome of a misunderstanding”.
Claiming that the incident was part of a ploy to polarize society, he further charged that “the run up to the killing clearly shows a design similar to that of the Muzaffarnagar riots (of 2013)”.
“Now, BJP is giving it a political colour while the local BJP MLA is justifying it and calling for a panchayat,” he claimed while alleging that “BJP and Samajwadi Party play the game together in Uttar Pradesh”.
He said that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi projects a certain image of the country in Silicon Valley in the USA, such “heinous crimes” were taking place a few kilometres away from the national capital.
The AAP spokesman alleged that BJP leaders were putting pressure on the investigators to let the criminals go scot-free.
“It’s unfortunate that we now have politics over what one eats,” he said. Iqlakh was beaten to death and his 22-year-old son Danish critically injured by a 200-strong mob which barged into their house on Monday night following rumours that the family had consumed beef. Cow slaughter is banned in UP.
Meanwhile, the Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj Abhiyan, too, alleged that the incident was part of a conspiracy by BJP and its allied organisations to achieve “communal polarisation” head of UP Panchayat polls.
“Swaraj Abhiyan requests Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- who generally speaks a lot -- to open his mouth about the incident and help restore some faith in the government,” a statement issued by the group said.
The Communist Party of India described Sharma’s comments as “most inhuman and uncultured”.
“CPI is surprised at Modi’s silence on such irrational and intolerant killing of innocent people. The party demands immediate action to bridle such anti-human forces,” party general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said.