ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Wages of Communal Polarisation

Communal tension and violence persist in western UP as the BJP seeks to advance its reactionary agenda

The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) was facilitated by a number of factors, but these varied region wise in the state. In western UP, the reasons were crystal clear – the BJP had not just won emphatically in Muzaffarnagar and other surrounding districts of the area, but had also managed to polarise votes on a communal basis to a significant extent. A close look at the voting records at the polling booth level in the Muzaffarnagar constituency alone (provided in the Form 20A data released by the Election Commission) reveals that there is a significantly high proportion – close to 30% of the overall number of booths – which polled more than 90% for a single party (in most cases, the BJP). This is evident in comparison with the 2009 Lok Sabha elections where such polling booths were far lower in number (only around 15-20 booths overall).

Communal polarisation, in other words, was the main reason for the BJP recording its most emphatic victory in India’s largest state. The party had successfully replicated its “Gujarat electoral model” in western UP. The spurt of communal incidents following the elections, especially after July (during the Ramzan celebrations) – tabulated and investigated in a special report in the Indian Express reveals that the polarisation strategy is sought to be replicated for the upcoming by-elections to various assembly constituencies in that area and beyond in UP. Nearly every minor/trivial incident featuring a Hindu and a Muslim, or a Sikh and a Muslim, or a dalit and a Muslim has been a trigger for a “communal incident”, the investigation reveals. The BJP, of course, has tried its best to bring about this situation, but the other main political parties – a desperate Samajwadi Party (SP) and a weakened Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – have also been responsible for the politicisation of minor incidents. Be it Saharanpur, where riots pitting Sikhs against Muslims have taken place in a city that has had amicable relations between the communities for long, or parts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Meerut, and Sambhal, the story is similar.

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