The disquiet in riot-scarred West Uttar Pradesh is perhaps best described by this song from Muzaffar Ali’s film Gaman: “Seene mein jalan aakhon mein toofan sa kyon hain, Is shahr mein har shaqs pareshan sa kyon hain (Everyone seems worried in this touchy town).”
The hurly-burly of daily life here fails to camouflage the worry etched on every face that distrust between Hindus and Muslims has sown. People fear losing life and property, but more scared are political parties of losing their traditional vote base to ideologically incompatible poachers.
The resultant fight for political survival and supremacy has kept the communal cauldron simmering.
Read: In UP, both Hindus and Muslims feel insecure
Since the Muzaffarnagar riots last year, caste alliances have been shifting in west UP to threaten the political existence of many a leader. It impacted the last Lok Sabha elections like never before.
The BJP ended up with 71 of UP’s 80 Parliament seats, sweeping the state’s western part. This was attributed largely due to the polarisation that saw Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Choudhary Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal losing their traditional Dalit and Jat votes.
But the BJP today cannot guarantee if these two dominant castes continue to support it to return to their respective political citadels.
“Dalits and Jats will be with BJP as long as Mulayam Singh Yadav, known for his minority appeasement, is in power. Only a highly improbable BSP-RLD-Congress alliance can turn the tables,” KS Rana, who authored Charan Singh’s biography, says.
The man on the street believes political parties in the region — often referred to as India’s communal laboratory — will continue to play with fire till the 2017 assembly elections.
Read: India trapped in communal cauldron; Uttar Pradesh atop five worst-hit states
Dalit intellectual Manoj Saini blames it on BJP’s experiment of creating fear psychosis to lure non-supporters. “This is unlike the Ram temple the party used to unite Hindus in the 1990s. Why do clashes happen every time chief minister Akhilesh Yadav tries winning over other castes? Why have there been no clashes between Muslims and Brahmins or Banias, BJP’s traditional voters?”
Few agree. People in Saharanpur blame Yadav junior for the increasing lawlessness and communal animosity. Muslims and Sikhs had clashed in the town recently over a piece of land.
“Barring the 1984 riots, we have not known violence for 45 years until now,” says Kripal Singh, a resident of the Muslim-dominated Himmatnagar locality where the latest clash happened.
In Meerut’s Chabbaria village, Jats are upset with Ajit Singh for his silence on the Muzaffarnagar clashes. Similarly, the Dalits of Abdullahpur are questioning Mayawati for staying away from Kaanth in Moradabad when they were fighting for their lives.
In Abdullahpur, a Dalit group led by Daya Ram accuses Mayawati of promoting local land mafia. “Vote SC ka, mahal inka?” he asks to imply BSP used their votes to help the rich get richer.
“Wherever BSP fielded Muslims, 75% Dalits voted for BJP. So did Jats in their areas,” says Jagdish Singh, gram pradhan of Chabbaria where BJP polled 1,136 of the 1,489 votes.
Jats acknowledge Charan Singh’s efforts in bonding with Muslims. But the fissures now are “too deep to return to the friendly days”.
Some, though, are optimistic. BSP leader Shahid Akhlaq believes Dalits will share political space with Muslims now that Mayawati is trying to defragment her vote bank. But that might not give peace a comeback chance.
Read: Meerut stares at bleak future as communal violence hits its image