mla held for violence
Uttar Pradesh police on Friday arrested BJP MLA Suresh Rana for the violence in Muzaffarnagar, where 48 people died in clashes that began in late August, flared on September 7 and continued for another week. Rana, the first legislator to be arrested in the case, is among 16 persons against whom a Muzaffarnagar court had issued warrants on September 18. The police said Rana had made a provocative speech on September 7 and damaged property. PTI picture shows Rana in Lucknow after his arrest
New Delhi, Sept. 20: The Congress has begun to position itself against the Samajwadi Party despite the understanding to protect the UPA government at the Centre, as the allies prepare to fight a fierce battle for Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh.
Shedding its initial inhibition about attacking the ruling Samajwadis on the Muzaffarnagar riots, the Congress today not only contended that the state government had no right to continue in office, it also went to the extent of comparing the violence with the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Nothing could have hurt Mulayam Singh Yadav more than this comparison by Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko, raising fears it would put the allies on a collision course.
Although individual Congress leaders had so far criticised the Akhilesh Yadav government for the mishandling of the situation and even insinuated at a collusion with the BJP in Muzaffarnagar, the party’s official line was mild and largely restricted to a theoretical criticism of the violence.
But sources said immense pressure from Muslim organisations and the realisation that the state government was fast losing popular support compelled the Congress to come out of its shell and confront Mulayam openly.
A senior Congress leader said: “The disturbing images on television of BJP leaders defending their acts and daring the government to arrest them tested our patience. Even the Prime Minister’s clear instructions for strictest possible action did not wake up the state government.
“There was no arrest and the fear among the Muslim community was deepening. This vindicated the allegation of inaction by the state government and the perception of complicity between the Samajwadis and the BJP. We couldn’t have remained a silent spectator.”
Sonia Gandhi, the sources said, was herself deeply anguished to see the plight of those in relief camps when she visited Muzaffarnagar with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday. She asked Singh to speak to Akhilesh and ensure justice.
But the accused leaders flaunted their freedom before the media, attended the Assembly and the first arrest was made only this evening, after the Congress toughened its stand.
What, however, surprised even some Congress leaders is the comparison with Gujarat riots which had earlier been repeatedly described as “pogrom” and “state-sponsored genocide” by the party.
Asked about the similarities between Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar, Chacko said: “Though we don’t say Muzaffarnagar was a state-sponsored riot, the two incidents are comparable in many ways. Prompt action was not taken by the Uttar Pradesh government, the situation is very bad in relief camps and enough is not being done to restore confidence and create situations to ensure the return of people to their homes.”
Asked about RLD chief Ajit Singh’s remark that Mulayam was Uttar Pradesh’s Modi, Chacko said: “We don’t believe that, it is his personal opinion.”
Chacko explained why he had invoked Gujarat. “The Gujarat riots were a wound on India’s psyche and we thought this will not happen again. But it happened and the state government didn’t take suitable action.”
Asked about demands for President’s rule, he said: “We want the government to act, better late than never. Clashes of this magnitude hadn’t taken place (earlier) in Uttar Pradesh.”
Sources said the Congress leadership was under tremendous pressure to get the Akhilesh government to act amid persistent complaints from the minority community about neglect and inaction.
On his return from Muzaffarnagar, Prime Minister Singh had met a delegation of leaders from key Muslim organisations. They alleged the BJP and the Samajwadis plotted disharmony between the Jats and the minority community.