Rising tensions stoke fear of more violence ahead of India elections
- POSTED: 19 Sep 2013 17:54
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The rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims come ahead of the build-up to general elections due in May 2014, stoking fears that communalisation is staging a stealthy comeback into India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
INDIA: The simmering communal tension in India's northern state of Uttar Pradesh came to a boil in Muzaffarnagar district earlier this month.
Lives were lost, homes were gutted and thousands of people turned into refugees.
The rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims come ahead of the build-up to general elections due in May 2014.
And it is stoking fears that communalisation is staging a stealthy comeback into the province where religion and caste is still central to the state's politics.
Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh has been mired in communal violence since late August.
Nearly 50 people died in the riots that were apparently triggered after a 17-year-old girl was allegedly harassed by a Muslim boy.
It led to the killing of the suspect and two of the girl's brothers.
The situation intensified after a fake video of a violent incident that wrongly claimed the girl's brothers being lynched by a mob went viral.
The army was deployed and succeeded in stemming the violence but there is concern that the tensions might spread to other parts of the state.
Vinay Katiyar, State president of Bhartiya janata Party, said: "They should have taken strict measures right at the beginning, but they didn't do so. As a result, a civil war has erupted in villages across the state. And now it has become difficult for the army to control the situation."
Being the most populous state with a large population of both Hindus and Muslims, Uttar Pradesh is considered to be the most susceptible to communal violence.
This has been so far the 28th such incident in the region ever since the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party took over the reins of the state in March 2012.
Political parties have used this recent incident to point out each other's faults and to sway voters in an electorate distinctly divided along religious and caste identities.
State opposition chief Mayawati said: "In my opinion, Bhartiya Janata Party and Samajwadi Party are together trying to instigate communal violence in Uttar Pradesh. This is their strategy to vie voters ahead of general elections."
This finger pointing is sparking fears of what else may happen in the run up to the Parliamentary elections.
Communal riots were a frequent occurrence in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Over the years, regional level parties have shifted away from discourse on religion and caste but this potential tinderbox may be reignited ahead of the general elections.