Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr is a Delhi-based journalist, who’s worked with Indian Express in multiple editions, and with DNA in Delhi. He has also written for Deccan Herald, Times of India, Gulf News (Dubai), Daily Star (Beirut) and Today (Singapore). He is now Senior Editor with Parliamentarian
While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was threatening that if the BJP came to power in Telangana, All-India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi will flee the country as the Nizam did (of course, it was not true that the Nizam fled, he remained in Hyderabad until his death in 1967 and contributed 5 tonnes of gold worth Rs 75 lakh then and Rs 1500 crore at current prices to the war fund in 1965 at the request of then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri) and that he would rename Hyderabad Bhagyanagar. History has never been a strong point when the BJP leaders indulge in anti-Muslim rage. But back in the small and sensitive town of Bulandshahr in the home state of Chief Minister Adityanath, a riot broke out on Monday on the pretext of cow slaughter, and a police inspector was killed as also one other person. Those arrested include members of the Bajrang Dal, and it does not a Sherlock Holmes to know who is behind the violence.
The Bulandshahr riot assumes gravity because of the killing of the police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, and another person, 21-year-old Sumit. It was coincidence that Singh had investigated the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri for alleged possession of beef.
The interesting question is whether this was an accidental outbreak of violence which is bound to happen in a backward state like Uttar Pradesh where law and order is fragile and communal tensions are on the boil. But with Rajasthan assembly elections round the corner, it seems that it may not be an accidental eruption and that it is meant as a smoke signal for the election in the neighbouring state. It will be hard to prove the connection but the BJP cadres and local leaders in Rajasthan would not want to let go an opportunity to make cow protection an election issue based on the Bulandshahr incident in the conservative state.
The worst fears of the political rivals of the BJP, including the Congress, who feel helpless in the face of the virulent communal rhetoric of the right-wing Hindu party, seem confirmed that the BJP would not hesitate to engineer a riot or raise the bogey of cow protection or the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya to win an election. If the Congress can be accused of trying to win the Muslim vote by pointing to the Hindu communalists, it is not beyond the BJP to rake up communal frenzy in the majority community to win an election.
When there is breakdown of law and order, and there is fear and tension in the air, it is people at large who are affected by it, and their caste and creed does not matter. It is a point when people lose faith in the government of the day. Whichever party happens to be in power has to bear the responsibility of riots, deaths and injuries. The BJP government of Chief Minister Adityanath cannot duck responsibility for the Bulandshahr eruption.
The BJP and other militant Hindu organizations have every right to campaign for cow protection but they have no right to indulge in arson and rioting as they did in Bulandshahr. And wherever the BJP is in power, its governments have no option but to take strict action against the rioters even when they happen to right-wing Hindu organizations like the Bajrang Dal as in this case of Bulandshahr. People are not likely to vote for the BJP if they feel that BJP governments condone the criminal acts of Hindu organizations. We get back to the famous, cryptic dictum of later Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he murmured the advice to then chief minister of Gujarat, now prime minister, Narendra Modi, that he should follow ‘raj dharma’. Today, Prime Minister Modi has the duty to advice Chief Minister Adityanath to follow ‘raj dharma’ and take strict action against the rioters in Bulandhshahr.
And whatever the temptation for communal polarization in the belief that it would help the BJP, BJP leaders will have to think of the backlash. People do not easily accept governments which allow rioters from their own parties to get away. Communalism and the consequent violence is indeed a double-edged sword. It is quite likely to backfire, something that the BJP’s top brass cannot rule out.