Azamgarh: SP's M-Y citadel is crumbling as Muslims move towards BSP
Azamgarh, the citadel of Yadav-Muslim unity, is crumbling. The Muslims of this much maligned district are in a mood to punish Akhilesh Yadav. They are so angry with the Yadav scion that they plan to shift their loyalties to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The Ulema Council, a local political party formed in the wake of Azamgarh youth being wrongly accused of terrorism, has decided to support the BSP and not field any candidate of its own.
Azamgarh was a safe fortress for Mulayam Singh Yadav. It elected him to the Lok Sabha in 2014 even when the entire country was being swept by the Modi Tsunami. In the 2012 Assembly election, the Samajwadi Party won 9 out of the 10 seats in Azamgarh.
This time around there is no way that the party can reach anywhere near that performance.
Today the local Muslims openly say that they want to teach Akhilesh Yadav a lesson. This is the direct consequence of the young chief minister consciously moving away from a political party built on the arithmetic of keeping its core vote of Yadavs and Muslims together, to a development platform.
“He does not want to be seen as either appeasing the minority community or angering the Hindu voters,” explains Masihuddin Sanjari.
That the SP under Akhilesh is treading a new path is admitted by local leaders of the party. “There is a deliberate strategy to not do anything that might allow the Bharatiya Janata Party to polarise the voters. This is what they did after the Muzaffarnagar riots. They are trying this again. But by talking only of development for all, Akhilesh is thwarting their attempt,” explains Havaldar Yadav, District president of SP in Azamgarh.
The minority community is not buying this. They feel betrayed.
“In the last election Akhilesh Yadav had made several promises to the Muslims in his manifesto. Although there were 18 promises made, the most important amongst them were—ensuring the release from jail of all those innocent Muslim youngster who had been accused of terrorism, providing 18 per cent reservation for Muslims in jobs, organising special camps for recruiting our youngsters into the Central Reserve Police Force and the State Police and implementing the Sachar Commission recommendations. He has done nothing,” Sanjari charges.
Sanjari also heads “Rihai Manch” for the release of innocent Muslim youngsters in jail on terrorism charges. He argues that Akhilesh’s strategy is to let the intelligence agencies do what they like while distancing himself and the state agencies from their actions
“So what he does is that he lets the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad arrest suspected terrorist youngsters and hands them over to the National Intelligence Agency,” he explains.
Tarique Shafique, a young human rights activist, says that 16 youngsters from Azamgarh are still in jail, of the two young men who were arrested on false charges of terrorism one died in police custody and even though an inquiry report by Retired Justice RD Nimish found that the two were innocent, there was no action on his report. There are 9 youngsters who are missing or absconding.
“When this happens to our young men, how can people be expected to support the government in which they had reposed hope? Entire families have been destroyed here and the government has done nothing,” he says.
Akhilesh, the locals explain, has decided to project himself as a development icon - - identified with the Lucknow Metro, roads and bridges. But the net result is that while he is not gaining new supporters, he is losing his core Muslim constituency.
“This is a typical trap that secular parties find themselves in. They think that by talking about the problems of the minority community they lose the majority vote,” Sanjari explains.
On the rebound after being virtually spurned by the SP, the minority vote could shift to the BSP, the next alternative. The BSP has made no promises to the Muslims. It also does not bring out election manifestos. “It is sheer anger and desire to teach the SP a lesson. People suspect that at some level the SP is doing tacitly what the BJP does openly to the Muslims,” Shafique says.
Former president of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Shahid Badr, who now runs a Unani medicine shop, says, “Nearly 80 per cent of Muslims here will not vote for the SP in Azamgarh. How their votes go to individual BSP candidates may be determined by local factors in each constituency. But the decision of the Ulema Council to also lend support to the BSP has made it a formidable contestant here.”
He says this is not 2012 when people were so enthused by Akhilesh and his promises that even old women who could not walk without help, wanted to vote for him.
“What is worse than doing nothing about releasing those suspected of terrorism, is that his government has resorted to lies. Instead of releasing the wrongly accused, Akhilesh’s government has gone on the front foot to re-arrest those acquitted by the sessions courts by moving the High Court. How are we expected to accept this?” he asks.
To illustrate the “double standards” of the Akhilesh government, Badr points to the alacrity with which cases including attempted murder, intimidation and kidnapping have been withdrawn against 19 people – including Raja Bhayya and Kalraj Mishra.
“The government says this was done in public interest. You tell me what is the public interest involved?” he asks.
Badr who is fighting his own cases involving the ban on SIMI the courts charges that contrary to popular belief, “The Akhilesh government has failed to prevent communal violence targeted at the minority community. Two Muslims were burnt alive at Kosi Kalan near Mathura in 2012 and the suspects are not still roaming around free. Houses of Muslims were burnt in Isthan Pratapgarh after Praveen Togadia’s speech and no one was held responsible. Not only has no action been taken against the perpetrators of the Muzaffarnagar riots and rapes, the National Security Act charge against Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana has been withdrawn.
“When we have not forgotten and forgiven the Gujarat riots of 2002, why should we forget Muzaffarnagar? Why should we take Akhilesh Yadav’s complicity lightly? Did he not order the bulldozers in to remove the camps of the displaced?” he asks.
He says that the sentiment in the Muslim community can be summarised in the words of Azamgarh’s famous poet Sagar Azmi – “Saamaan to gaya hi tha, woh ghar bhi le gaya. Ab ki fasaad dil se mere, darr bhi le gaya. (I had lost my belongings, but he even took away my home. This time the riot has also taken fear from my heart).