Lucknow: Muzaffarnagar, the district in Western Uttar Pradesh that was left blood-stained by riots in 2013, witnessed a mammoth 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' at Government Inter-College (GIC) on Sunday. The Jat-Muslim alliance and coming together of communities by putting behind long-standing differences show the support for the newly emerging movement to counter the Yogi Adityanath-led state government.
'Standing Shoulder to Shoulder'
The Mahapanchayat has sounded the poll bugle for the UP elections slated to take place early next year. This congregation was symbolic in highlighting the Jat-Muslim alliance sending a message to the BJP leadership ahead of the polls.
Sujru, a Muslim majority hamlet barely 5 km from the GIC ground, was the centre of discussion where scores of Muslims in skull caps welcomed the farmers. They distributed breakfast — halwa, puri and bananas – among the farmers arriving from different parts of the country to join the Mahapanchayat.
The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, in which over 50 people were killed and 50,000 affected, had shredded the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, an influential farmer leader from western UP, has brought the two communities together again after eight years, promising to heal the wounds of 2013.
Ghulam Mohammad Jola, an active Muslim leader and a former colleague of the late Mahendra Singh Tikait, who disassociated himself from the BKU after the riots and formed a new farmer organisation called Bhartiya Kisan Mazdoor Manch, was also spotted at the centre of the stage with BKU President Naresh Tikait.
"For how long will we carry hatred against each other? It has been eight years. People of Muzaffarnagar don't want this city to be remembered for the 2013 riots but the unity among farmers, Jats and Muslims. We have united once again, forgetting all the riots' nightmares and hopeful that this camaraderie will endure and help build bridges among people," Jola told Newsclick. He added that the communal differences between Muslims and Jats were now part of the past. "If farmers want concrete solutions, they need to come under one banner and defeat the current regime," he said.
Meanwhile, the chants of "Allah hu Akbar" and "Har Har Mahadev" echoed in the mansions. When Rakesh Tikait called out two slogans, his audience of thousands responded. He said these chants had been previously raised together, and they would continue in the future as well.
"These people (BJP) have always worked on dividing people and are responsible for riots. We will have to stop them. We will have to work constructively. We will not give our state to those who are responsible for riots," Tikait said while addressing the Mahapanchayat.
Echoing similar sentiments, Naresh Tikait said, "We have to get over the divisive politics of the ruling government. After the riots in 2013, there was a thick line drawn in our relationship, but it is high time to move on."
Meanwhile, hundreds of riot victims were also present at the Mahapanchayat, determined to oust the BJP government in the forthcoming Assembly polls. They took an oath to not divide again along political lines. They said such an event would eventually help a little in healing the deep wounds of the horrific riots. The post-riots polarisation helped the BJP, and a year after the riots, the party won the 2017 Assembly elections with a thumping majority as Jats sides with the party.
"The Kisan Mahapanchayat on Sunday have made both Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi governments realise that Hindu and Muslims are united in Muzaffarnagar. The politics of hatred by them in West UP won't work again," Alam, a riot victim who participated in the event, told Newsclick.
Alam lost his brother in the riots and his house was burnt down. He has built back everything in the past eight years. "The present situation demands we should move ahead with our lives if we want to work together. Together we can not only solve our problem but also create a vast vote base," he said.
Farmers Take Rest Inside Mosque
Asif Rahi, president of Paigham- e- Insaniyat, an NGO working for communal harmony in Muzaffarnagar district, said, "Muzaffarnagar has always been known for its Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. The example of harmony given by the people of the city on Sunday's panchayat is actually the real Muzaffarnagar. Some people had ended the brotherhood here for their selfishness, but now, the people of Muzaffarnagar have understood, and they have learned lessons from the 2013 riots."
Rahi, who worked extensively post-riots for brotherhood in the district, told Newsclick that after the Mahapanchayat episode, the gap between Jats and Muslims would indeed reduce by a significant amount. The way people of Muzaffarnagar welcomed farmers with open hearts irrespective of their religions; opened mosque, gurdwara, arranged langars, distributed 'tehri', halwa-puri, showed that they did not want to remember infamous riots, he said.
The influential people from both Jat and Muslim communities said everyone knew who got electoral gains and political mileage in West UP due to Muzaffarnagar riots. The divisive politics of any political party would not work there anymore as thousands of people paid the price for it, they said. "The change has been visible soon after the first panchayat was held at GIC ground after Rakesh burst into tears at Ghazipur border. After that episode, not only elder Jats but our youths too are disappointed with the current government. We made a mistake and voted for them (BJP), but we won't repeat this mistake in upcoming elections nor will our bonding be faded ever," Naresh Chaudhary, a Jat leader, said.