The backdrop of communal violence in Uttar Pradesh has shifted from urban to rural areas. And it is worrying both the Centre and the state governments.
On Monday, the Union home ministry on Monday sent a formal advisory to the state to deploy adequate forces in rural areas. The Akhilesh Singh government has been asked to keep the Centre abreast of the situation on the ground.
The trend began last year, and since January 2012, seven incidents of communal violence took place across rural areas of the state.
“This time, the majority of the deaths has been reported in the villages located in Phugana, Shahpur, Sisauli and Dhaurkalan area of the district,” said UP’s principal secretary Home RM Srivastava.
Violence in villages is much more difficult to control due to the geographical spread and thin deployment of security forces. Still more worrisome is that the wounds fester for years, said an official in Delhi.
Unlike a city where life gets back on track after a semblance of normalcy is restored, there is a good chance that retaliatory attacks could continue in the villages. Besides, people also use the opportunity to settle scores.
For instance, the UP government suspects that a bullet-ridden body found in a jungle in Shamli on Monday morning could be linked to personal rivalry, particularly when the man was a witness in a court case.
While the state government attributes the violence to the increased activity of the Hindutva brigade, the shift is worrying experts.
Earlier, the majority community used to defend the minority from the attack by the outsiders. This time, social protection system has melted as the one community attacked other, said a police officer posted in Muzaffaranagar.
Why the rural heartland of UP is suddenly engulfed with communal hatred?
Rajesh Kumar Mishra of Lucknow University links the communal hatred to the new socio-economic phenomenon unraveling in the agrarian society.
The village community was turning from a socially integrated society into a centrifugal one. A new middle class has risen in the rural hub, which is not involved in agriculture. This new middle class is also more casteist and communal in nature too, said the head of the university sociology department.
Professor A Satyanarayan of Allahabad University, who has done study on the Jat- Muslim community in West UP, agrees.
Earlier, Jats, Gujjars and Rajputs lived in harmony with Muslims. Market forces have changed the relationship as well as land holdings in the area.