Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has said there are forces working overtime to destroy the state’s social fabric and destabilise his government.
He said insignificant incidents, like a minor accident involving a cyclist, were blown out of proportion and given a communal colour.
Incidents of communal riots have increased since Akhilesh took over the government, triggering criticism that these riots are being engineered to secure minority vote bank.
In an exclusive interview with HT, the beleaguered CM parries much of the criticism directed at him by the Opposition for the inept handling of the communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and other districts.
Instead, he has sought support of secular parties in restoring the communal amity and the shattered image of the largest state in the country.
Responding to the accusations that his party was complicit in the recent communal conflagration, he said how he could destroy his own government’s image by scaring away the industrialists.
Why does the number of communal clashes rise when the SP is in power?
I have been saying again and again that some political forces are out to destroy the social fabric of the state. Even trivial issues like eve-teasing are magnified and deliberately given a communal colour.
In Kannauj today, a small incident of a clash over a minor cycle accident was blown up as a Hindu-Muslim clash. Similarly, a heated argument between a class employee of a bank and a customer was also portrayed as a communal clash.
These are small incidents and are usually sorted out by local seniors and rarely need government intervention. But, as I said, some political parties are playing with fire and I would want to appeal to one and all not to pay heed to rumours.
Are you saying you and the government are not responsible?
Two panchayats had passed off peacefully and they were holding the third panchayat. No one had any inkling that the situation would turn so ugly.
Otherwise, if the government could ban (the VHP-sponsored) chaurasi kosi parikrama, it could have banned the panchayat too.
Moreover, they were not open to dialogue with the district administration on their demands, while some political forces were more interested in creating trouble. They had not even allowed people to speak on communal harmony. Those who tried a reconciliatory approach were removed from the dais.
So, you will admit it was an intelligence failure?
Well, we have already taken action against the officials and released innocents who were wrongly arrested. But the government will not spare those behind these riots. We have ordered an inquiry and would take stringent action against the people who fanned communal hatred.
The political parties are demanding your government’s dismissal?
Let them. I don’t want to join issue with them. I will appeal to all secular parties to remain united and help in peace building. The priority of my government is to help the people return to their homes, their villages and resume their normal lives. I admit this will take time.
I think the urgent task before the government is to normalise Muzaffarnagar as quickly as possible. We have to provide the affected people the basic needs and succour. The central forces will remain there till the situation stabilises.
Will you hold an all-party meeting and include the political parties in the rebuilding process?
The Vidhan Sabha session is starting from September 16. I am sure the Opposition would corner the government on Muzaffarnagar riots. I expect some of them to also give concrete suggestions the government can consider. And when some of them are themselves involved in spoiling the atmosphere, what can the government expect.
There is a feeling that you have failed and let down the people who brought you to power?
Yes, some want me to fail and are hell-bent on tarnishing my and the state’s image. But they will fail in their conspiracy eventually, as I will remain focused on my development agenda and would not deviate come what may. Even today, when I am being attacked on all sides, the students met the Allahabad district magistrate demanding to know when they will get their laptops.
How do you respond to the criticism that it’s your father, not you, who runs the government?
As a senior and national president of the party, he guides me. He does not interfere, but the propaganda goes on and on against us even though other parties too follow similar practices.
Your party has been accused of Muslim appeasement in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections?
Sab ka nuksan hua hai (all communities have suffered) and they all are poor farmers. People have left their homes and the government is standing by the victims, not communities.
But there is accusation of one-sided action?
Whoever has suffered, justice will be done. Government is with the people. Even a journalist has lost his life.
You have been accused of consolidating Muslim vote bank before next Lok Sabha polls?
We are in power; it is a majority government. We are doing our work. Why would we create communal disturbance? I want industrialists to come and invest in UP. Will they come in such an atmosphere? How can government do anything that would tarnish its own image?