Nothing can be more hypocritical than the Samajwadi Party demanding passage of the Prevention of Communal & Targeted Violence Bill in Parliament. Pilloried by all and sundry on its handling of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, it continues unashamedly with its trademark tokenism in the bid to appease the ‘minority community’, a euphemism in its lexicon for just the Muslims. Interestingly, it continues to claim proprietary rights on the community despite the many indications that the party is rapidly falling out of favour with it. A slew of statements issued by representatives of the Muslim community from all sections of the spectrum have condemned the attitude, approach and policy of the UP Government on minorities.
It can be said that the Muzaffarnagar riots have proved the real eye-opener. Even reports issued by fact-finders from the most ‘secular’ of agencies – NGOs, academics, independent commissions (national and international) – have condemned in resounding terms the failures of the government (and the administration) in preventing the incident and its escalation, as well as in dealing with the aftermath in terms of providing relief, rehabilitation, security and psychological support. Instead, from the start, the government has been in a state of denial, completely flummoxed by the incident. Its political philosophy built around its ‘secular’ pretensions collapsed entirely in the face of a harsh reality. It was failure as absolute as the attempts made by Mulayam Singh Yadav in an earlier avatar as CM of an undivided UP to clamp down on the Uttarakhand movement.
Now, the party believes that by seeming to be an ardent supporter of the bill it will reclaim its place in the hearts of the Muslims. It could not be more wrong, for all the conditions that the proposed law would seek to establish already existed in UP at the time of the Muzaffarnagar riots. The SP cannot claim that its administration or the ruling party members were in any way targeting the minority, or had any animus for it. If the Muslims could suffer so deeply and be abandoned so speedily to the exigencies of politics – being derided variously as ‘beggars’, ‘agents of the BJP and Congress’, ‘unaffected outsiders’ and ‘opportunists’ – in a state in the absolute thrall of a ‘secular’ party like the Samajwadi Party, how can mere legislation assist in a more adverse situation? And these are the circumstances of those the party claims to favour – imagine what the condition must be of the section that is on the other side of the conflict!
Whatever the fate of the bill, the SP cannot hope to benefit much from having supported it. The people of the state want simple and effective governance on the ground, which is almost non-existent. The Muzaffarnagar incident was only the latest in a series of communal clashes that have plagued the state since the SP came to power. Communal harmony is under much greater threat than in the times of Mayawati. To use the excuse of a resurgent BJP and a rising Modi to hide its own failings is a most transparent ploy that deceives no one, least of all the victims.
Already the polls suggest that there is widespread disillusionment with the SP among the staunchest followers outside of its caste base. Votes will be cast based on the perceived national scenario. That leaves the SP in a situation no better than the Congress at the Centre.