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Bhaichara resonates in Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur

AM Jigeesh Muzaffarnagar/ Saharanpur | Updated on April 05, 2019 Published on April 05, 2019

Local industrialists feel that growth will be possible only in a peaceful society

Bhaichara (brotherhood) has become a commonly used word in Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur, the two cities of Uttar Pradesh which witnessed communal polarisation after riots in 2013 and 2014. Things are fast changing in the area as “livelihood issues” have taken up centre-stage of social relations.

Saharanpur

Nadeem Akhtar, the qazi of Saharanpur, claims that none except a few journalists remember the riots that hit Saharanpur five years ago. At least three people died, businesses such as wood carving and plywood manufacturing suffered loss worth crores of rupees and several were injured. The city was witnessing a major riot after 1985.

“Ghettoisation has played a major role in widening the gap between Hindus and Muslims. It started after the partition and gathered momentum in the 1970s. We used to have Hindus in our immediate neighbourhood and vice versa. Fear is the reason for this ghettoisation,” said Akhtar, who played a vital role in bringing peace.

Making peace

Akhtar said just 40 people out of the four lakh population in the city vitiated the atmosphere.

“Fortunately, we have sensible people on each side. So it was easy to curb the riots within a day. It started at 8 am on July 25, 2014, and we could curb it with the help of elders in the society by 10.30 am. But the damage was done. A series of meetings and formal and informal talks helped us to maintain normalcy,” Akhtar added. “A riot is an eruption of a pending issue or a reason which the administration has been neglecting for long. In Saharanpur too, this was the situation,” Akhtar said, adding that the situation has changed.

“Thousands of Hindus will vote for a Muslim candidate and hundreds of Muslims will vote for a Hindu candidate in this election,” Akhtar added.

Gaurav Garg, BJP spokesperson of the Lok Sabha constituency, had a different view. He said polarisation is still there.

“The Opposition parties cannot survive without polarising the electorate. They are scared of the support the BJP is getting from Muslim pockets. There is not a single booth in the city where we do not have committees,” Garg said.

Muzaffarnagar

In Muzaffarnagar, the situation was more complex. More than 60 people died and one lakh people were displaced after the 2013 riots which divided the Jats and the Muslims. While the Jats belong to the farming community, the Muslims are small farmers or agriculture workers.

“We had no other way than working at a Jat’s farm and they had no other way than employing Muslim agriculture workers. We used to coexist like brothers but it was the BJP which brought divisions among us. Now those things are a matter of past,” said Irfan, an agriculture worker in the area.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) claims that party leader Ajit Singh’s efforts brought peace in the region. “Out of the 10,000 people who got arrested during the riots, only 126 are in jail. Ajit Singh, despite losing in the 2014 elections, played the role of an elder statesman and ensured that cases were amicably settled out of court. He held hundreds of meetings with the affected parties,” said Anil Chaudhury Debathwa, a local RLD leader.

Local industrialists too feel that growth will be possible only in a peaceful society. “The last five years have been bad for farmers, agriculture workers and small scale industries. I faced a loss of 50 per cent due to demonetisation and GST. People here are discussing such issues, not communal problems,” said AK Jain, who runs a small-scale sugar mill near Khiwai.

Published on April 05, 2019
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