Yogi govt to withdraw cases against BJP leaders accused in Muzaffarnagar riots

The UP government has said that the charges of inciting mobs to attack people and property are ‘political’

Photo by Ritesh Shukla/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo by Ritesh Shukla/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Biswajeet Banerjee

The leaders who stoked communal fire in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 that led to one of the worst riots of this decade are all set to roam around free as the Yogi Adityanath government has decided to withdraw cases filed against them in connection with the riots.

Law and Justice Minister of Uttar Pradesh Brijesh Pathak said that the government has decided to withdraw all ‘political’ cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots.

But he did not elaborate about the nature of the ‘political’ cases. He kept mum when asked what was ‘political’ about inciting mobs to attack properties and individuals of a particular community for which these leaders were booked under serious sections of criminal law.

No one in the government is ready to answer whether Sadhvi Prachi, whose fiery speech on August 31, 2013, is believed to have triggered the riots, will also go scot-free. Or if the BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan, Shamli, Suresh Rana, who is also the Cane Development Minister, and Sangeet Singh Som, the BJP MLA from Sardhana, will also get reprieve? No one has the answers.

Senior criminal lawyer Pritam Srivastava said that Indian jurisprudence does not differentiate between political cases and criminal cases. Political leaders are booked under IPC and it goes the same for the common man. “If leaders get pardon on grounds of ‘political’ cases in connection with Muzaffarnagar riots, what will happen to others who acted at the insistence of these leaders and took law into their hands? Will those people also get immunity,” he asks.

Muzaffarnagar had witnessed one of the worst riots in the history of UP when 63 people were killed and over 50,000 were rendered homeless. It all started from an accusation of harassment which right wing leaders gave the colour of love jihad. The Muzaffarnagar riots changed the political discourse of the country as the Lok Sabha elections were held under the shadow of Hindu-Muslim polarisation caused by the violence. It led to a resounding victory for the BJP which, along with its allies, won 73 out of the 80 seats in the state.

That something was cooking was evident when on last Monday, BJP MPs and legislators, along with Jat and Khaap leaders from western UP, met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. They demanded withdrawal of cases against the leaders accused in the riots. The delegation also included Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait. Later, BJP MLA Sangeet Som and others too met the CM on the same issue.

After that meeting, the government's law department sought reports from Muzaffarnagar and other districts on the cases lodged against politicians, particularly of the BJP. Sources said that even last month, the UP government had sought the opinion of the District Magistrate regarding the status of the Muzaffarnagar riot cases. The DM was apparently asked whether withdrawal of cases would be the right step in public interest.

Law and Justice Minister Brijesh pathak said that political leaders were “falsely” implicated in the riots and hence, the government had started the process to withdraw the cases.

Those leaders who were named in FIRs include Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Baliyan, Bijnore MP Bhartendra Singh, Budhana MLA Umesh Malik and VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi.

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