June 16, 2016

India: All insecure in Kairana - Comment in Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times - June 15, 2016

All insecure in Kairana

It is somewhat surprising that while the BJP, at the national executive held in Allahabad, is talking about the ‘evil of communalism’, apart from ‘casteism and dynastic rule’, afflicting Uttar Pradesh, one of the party MPs is stoking communal sentiments by alleging that about 350 Hindu families have left the town of Kairana, in Shamli district, after receiving extortion threats from a ‘Muslim ringleader’, who allegedly has the support of the ruling Samajwadi Party. BJP president Amit Shah has not improved matters by linking the ‘exodus’ to the upcoming polls in the state by asking the people to vote against the SP in order to arrest such developments, for which the party is sending a fact-finding committee to the place. Other BJP functionaries holding ministerial positions have made similar insinuations. But investigation by Hindustan Times has a different story to tell. If there is any grain of truth in what these people are alleging, it is that the local gangster who had earned notoriety in the area by killing two businessmen is a Muslim.

Unlike many other parts of UP where crime is of an individual nature, western UP is reputed to have lots of criminal gangs. While these gangs are formed on the basis of caste or clan, as in the case of the Tyagi gang, individual loyalties are also a factor in moblising people to work for a leader, like in the Neetu gang. Mukhim Kala, whose activities have caused consternation in the BJP, by all accounts belonged to the second category. Reports suggest that doctors and petrol pump owners have left the place owing to the fear of such gangs. This is one aspect of the story. Another is that there are no industries in Kairana. This causes people to migrate to places such as Panipat, as has been testified to by the district magistrate of Shamli.

Bipan Chandra in his work Communalism in Modern India had posited the view that communalism is the false belief that a person’s religious identity structures her economic interests. And the economic interests of an extortionist can be only extortion. If the extortionist, like Mukhim Kala, sees that by pandering to people’s religious feelings he can make a quick gain, he would stop at nothing to achieve it. But the fact remains that he’s nothing but an extortionist, whatever his religion may be. And, as simple law-and-order problems lead to explosive riots, the BJP must see the facts on the ground lest the high-mindedness it revealed in Allahabad get buried under the fire and brimstone coming from the likes of Sadhvi Prachi, who has asked for a Muslim-mukt Bharat.