Shadow of riots, Dalit discontent mark voter in Muzzafarnagar

In 2013, communal riots here claimed the lives of 64 persons, and displaced 50,000, forcing many Muslims to flee their villages and live in shelter camps
Among the 10 candidates in the fray, the main contest was between Sanjeev Baliyan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Ajit Singh, who was part of the grand alliance that also includes the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.(AFP file photo)
Among the 10 candidates in the fray, the main contest was between Sanjeev Baliyan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Ajit Singh, who was part of the grand alliance that also includes the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.(AFP file photo)
Updated on May 21, 2019 12:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Muzaffarnagar | ByS Raju

Khurram S, a trader, hesitates to share any opinion on political issues. “My wife has asked me not to say anything in the presence of journalists, otherwise I could land in trouble,” he said.

“Fear has been looming large in the minds of many Muslims,” said Riyaz Ahmad, a retired development officer. Unani medical practitioner Anees Rana, sitting beside him in Khurram’s home, nodded in assent.

In 2013, communal riots here claimed the lives of 64 persons, and displaced 50,000, forcing many Muslims to flee their villages and live in shelter camps.

Muzzafarnagar, one of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, voted in the first phase of the Lok Sabha election on April 11. Among the 10 candidates in the fray, the main contest was between Sanjeev Baliyan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Ajit Singh, who was part of the grand alliance that also includes the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Baliyan won this seat in 2014 by a margin of 400,000 votes over the the BSP candidate. RLD’s support base of Jat and Muslim voters was broken after the riots, resulting in the defeat of Singh’s son, Jayant, in 2014. The two communities constitute over half the electorate in this seat.

In the Shahpur area, which was affected during the 2013 riots, a group of Jat farmers at Kakra village talks about Jat pride, sugarcane dues, the work of Ajit Singh and the “hollow” promises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Farmers’ distress —particularly over the number of stray cattle on account of the state government’s cow protection drive — was a key factor in the recent elections.

Parmendra Singh, Chob Singh and Prahlad Singh said the electoral reality of the constituency has changed since the 2014 polls, when the BJP won Muzaffarnagar among 71 seats. The community voted for the BJP then.

This time around, they said, they backed Ajit Singh as they felt that they had committed a mistake in 1971 by not voting for his father Chaudhary Charan Singh.

They also said the 2013 riots are no longer an issue, but admit that a sizable number of young Jats are inclined towards the BJP. “They don’t listen to us,” Jaiveer Singh said. In the Dalit-dominated Kaserua village, Sherpal Singh, a community leader spoke about the impact of the dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “Dalits have extended their full support to alliance candidate Ajit Singh. They are annoyed with the BJP, which attempted to abolish reservation and send our innocent children to jail last year during Bharat Bandh,” he said.

Many OBC voters seem to have voted for the BJP. Kiranpal Kashyap of Chandpur village said, “We are with the BJP, it is doing a good job

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Tuesday, July 05, 2022