Akhilesh Yadav in the family business
TWO YEARS AGO on the morning of 6 September, Anita Singh, principal secretary to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was informed that thousands of people from the neighbouring states of Haryana and Delhi were gathering at a village in Muzaffarnagar district. A “Jat Mahapanchayat,” a large-scale political meeting of the region’s Hindu Jats, was scheduled to take place the following day, curdling an atmosphere already soured by threats and suspicion. Some days earlier, two young Jat men and a Muslim youth had allegedly been murdered in an altercation; rumours had circulated of the latter harassing a young Hindu woman. A number of Jat-affiliated outfits had responded by organising the mahapanchayat, with the involvement and encouragement of the local cadre of the Bharatiya Janata Party. All this had divided local Hindus and Muslims, and the regional authorities were on edge, anticipating violence.Orders prohibiting assembly under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were in force. The men occupying the posts of senior superintendent of police, and district magistrate, had been transferred out twice in the last fortnight. Thousands of police and paramilitary personnel were mobilised in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts to maintain the state’s control over a potentially inflammatory situation. An additional director-general of police, Arun Kumar, had come west from Lucknow to keep an eye on the proceedings. Yet instructions to actually stop the mahapanchayat never arrived from the secretariat.
Published by Caravan magazine on September 1, 2015