By doing this, is the BJP attempting to counter the possibility of a Jat and Muslim consolidated vote bank against the saffron party in the district?
The Yogi Adityanath government has initiated the process of withdrawing 131 cases which were filed against accused belonging to Jat community during the communal riots of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in September 2013. Newsclick has access to the documents sent by the Adityanath government to the Muzaffarnagar district administration with regard to withdrawal of the cases.
The list of 131 cases includes a large number of cases in which charges are “heinous and grave”. Out of the 131 cases, 13 are related to murder charges and 11 related to attempts to murder.
Many activists and political observers of the region have said that the Yogi government, scared of the possibility of the ongoing peace efforts to bring together Muslims and Jats, is countering the possibility of the Jat and Muslim becoming a consolidated vote bank against the saffron party by withdrawing the cases.
A number of activists had conducted several meetings in the region between Jats and Muslims and some initial concrete results had given out the hope that the two communities, broken apart during the riots, could come together yet again.
“Muslim victims of the riots had promised after these peace meetings to forgive and withdraw the cases they had filed against their Jat neighbours. The sudden move of the Yogi government aims to scuttle the peace process in order to ensure that Jats remain on the side of the BJP,” said Ghulam Mohammad Jaula, former Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader, while speaking to Newsclick. He now works among Muslim farmers, after breaking away from the Jat leadership of the BKU in the aftermath of the riots.
Over 60 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and more than 50,000 people were left displaced due to the communal riots which happened in the run-up to the 2014 general elections.
Out of the total 131, there are 16 cases which were booked under section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and two cases were filed under section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to insult a religion or religious beliefs).
There are as many as 85 cases filed under Section 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.), 55 cases related to dacoity and filed under Section 395, and two cases of kidnapping booked under Section 364 of the IPC.
The documents in possession of Newsclick show that Rajesh Singh, the special secretary in the Yogi Adityanath government, had written a letter to the district magistrates of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli on February 23, with the subject “With regard to the withdrawal of the cases (list attached) registered in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli during the communal riots of 2013”. The letter was received by the Muzaffarnagar administration on March 6.
In the letter, the state government asked the DMs of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli about their opinion on the merits of the cases and went on to ask if the cases could be withdrawn in “public interest”.
The letter sought information on 13 points that includes the case status, number of witnesses in the cases, merits and strength of these cases. The list attached to the letter mentioned the charges under which the cases were registered and the police station where the complainants had slapped those cases. Interestingly all the accused in these cases belong to the locally dominant Jat community.
According to the senior district officials, the letter right now is with the senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Muzaffarnagar. “The DM has forwarded the letter to the SSP and the prosecution officer for their opinion on the number of questions and queries raised by the special secretary,” said the official.
The SSP Muzaffarnagar refused to comment on the letter and his opinion on the government’s process to withdraw the cases against Jat accused.
To understand the issue, Newsclick talked to Sanjeev Baliyan – the BJP Member of Parliament from Muzaffarnagar and former union minister of state under the Narendra Modi government. He said that all the cases, which are in the process of being withdrawn, were filed against “innocent Hindus by the partisan government of the Samajwadi Party”.
Baliyan said that on February 5, he led a delegation of 12 Jat leaders belonging to various Khaps and the BKU, including the latter’s President Rakesh Tikait and BJP MLAs from Muzaffarnagar Umesh Malik and Kapil Agarwal, to meet Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The delegation had appealed to the chief minister to withdraw the cases filed against “innocent Hindus as part of SP’s policy of appeasement of a particular community”.
During the meeting, Baliyan had handed over a list of 179 cases in which 850 Jats were booked as accused.
“I had requested the honourable chief minister to look at the number of cases filed against innocent Hindus by the previous government due to its policy of appeasement of a particular community. I had given him a list of 179 cases in which 850 Hindus were booked in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli during the riots. I requested him to reconsider these cases and if possible withdraw them,” he said.
“I had been sitting with community leaders and have chalked out a comprehensive list of innocent youths who were illegally framed by the previous government,” he added.
Many local activists condemned the move of the government to “withdraw cases against members of the majority community who were booked on the allegation of killing innocent Muslim men, women, boys and girls”.
Jaula told Newsclick that the BJP was forced to consider withdrawing cases against Jats due to two reasons. “It is a common knowledge that Jats and Muslims used to be a united force voting for secular parties, mainly Ajit Singh led RLD among others. But after the riots, they broke apart and Jats started voting for the BJP. Lately, a group of prominent civil society members from across the religious spectrum, including myself, have started doing peace meetings between Muslims and Jats in the riot-ravaged villages in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli,” he said.
“We conducted more than two dozen small and big meetings, which were participated by both Muslims and Jats, where we explained at length how the prosperity of the local farmers, including both Muslims and Jats, had gone away since both started hating each other. Everywhere we went people agreed with us,” Jaula explained the impact of the peace meetings.
“A small yet extremely crucial impact of the peace meetings was that the Jats had started asking for forgiveness from the Muslims and invited them back to their villages from where Muslims had run away during the riots. And Muslim victims assured them that they will forgive the Jats and possibly also withdraw the cases they filed against their Jat neighbours. This sent shivers down the spine of local BJP leadership, which prospered on division. Because if the Jats and Muslims come back together then there will be no space for BJP to do politics. Hence, they came up with the latest move to withdraw the cases,” he added.
The second reason was that in January the Yogi government had initiated withdrawal of cases filed against local BJP leaders like Baliyan, Sangeet Som and others.
The prominent BJP leaders who were booked on charges of provoking the riots include former Union Minister and party MP from Muzaffarnagar Sanjiv Balyan, Bijnor MP Bhartendu Singh, Cane development minister in Yogi Adityanath Cabinet and MLA from Thana Bhawan Suresh Rana, Budhana MLA Umesh Malik and party leader Sadhvi Prachi.
A secretary-level officer of the Ministry of Law and Justice of the state government had in January written a similar letter to the DM and SSP of Muzaffarnagar asking if the cases filed against BJP leader could be withdrawn in public interest. It had angered the Jat community and Khap leaders that while the BJP was concerned about its leaders it did not care about the Jat youths who were arrested and were in jail for cases filed during the riots.
So in January last week, a big meeting was organised by the Jat and BKU leaders, demanding that the BJP government withdraw the cases against Jat youths in the similar manner it was trying to do for its leaders.