“Muslims were attacked not so much with the intent of causing death… but with the object of chasing them out of the Hindu-majority villages," the team from Centre for Policy Analysis (CPA) said in a report cited by The World Bulletin on Thursday, September 19.
The report went on to point to "a plan to end decades of coexistence and 'cleanse' certain villages of their Muslim presence."
|Politics Inflames Hindu-Muslim Tension|
They also forced some 40,000 people to flee their villages, according to the state government.
The crisis began in the village of Kawal, when a Muslim man was killed by the brother and cousin of a Hindu girl after allegedly harassing her.
The two killers, members of the Hindu Jat community, were reportedly lynched by the family of the slain Muslim and others in the locality.
"[This] was a localized incident that could have been contained by a strong dose of political statesmanship," concluded the fact-finding team from the CPA, which visited the area on September 14.
The team recommended that a Supreme Court judge be appointed to lead investigations into the violence.
The team included Harsh Mander, a human rights activist and former civil servant; E. N. Rammohan, former director-general of the Border Security Force; Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy of Jawaharlal Nehru University; John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council; veteran journalist Sukumar Muralidharan; and CPA Director Seema Mustafa.
The operation showed state police and administration officials speaking about "pressure from above" in handling the situation.
One of the officers explained that the riots had probably been the result of a miscalculation by leaders who wanted to create Hindu-Muslim polarization in hopes of garnering more votes.
The fact-finding team warned that the latest clashes were a direct result of a recent history of alienation between Hindus and Muslims, stoked largely by propaganda put out by local Hindu media outfits.
The team cited "a deliberate disregard for rising tensions and intelligence reports."
It has also blamed the state government for acting "in the worst possible manner" and failing to arrest those who used hate speech.
"Instead of stepping up with what was required, the UP state government signaled indecision, ineptitude or even worse – possibly a degree of collusion with the forces of disorder," the team concluded.
"The evidence seems to indicate overwhelmingly that the administration remained passive as the spiral of provocative actions gathered momentum," the report added.
The media bias was accompanied by efforts of state's ruling Samajwadi Party and the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to fan Hindu-Muslim tensions, the report added.
It traced the growing activities of Hindu organizations, like the BJP-affiliated Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and the curious response of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government.
"The entire thing was seen to be a choreographed spectacle in which the SP and opposition BJP would create a sharp polarization on communal grounds, compelling the electorate in the state to make a choice between them, and squeezing out the other parties," it said.
"The BJP has been actively involved in the violence and could emerge, when the embers die down, as the major gainer," it added.
The team also cited "conflicting guidance from the political leadership," underlining the need to "uncover" the trail of formal instructions and informal verbal orders given by political leaders during the two weeks that followed the Kawal incident.
"Muzaffarnagar, and indeed the western belt of UP, was plagued by toxic rumors designed to pit communities against each other," it said.
"Instead of defusing these from the very beginning through a sustained information campaign, the state government chose to ignore them, contributing to a volatile atmosphere that could have erupted at any time," the fact-finding team added.
The fact-finding team also attacked the Congress, which holds the federal government, saying that the party saw the situation as an opportunity to garner votes.
The opposition BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak defended the party, blaming ruling SP for fanning the incidents.
"The entire responsibility for Muzaffarnagar riots lies with SP. There was no administrative control. Politics of votebank gained centrestage and confusing statements. Azam [Khan] said these were communal riots and Mulayam said these were ethnic riots. Who do we believe?" he exclaimed.
"None of the BJP leaders delivered any hate speech. Infact they were not even allowed to enter the affected areas when they wanted to reach out to people. They have done no wrong then why should they be arrested?" he added.
On the other hand, the Congress spokesperson Dwijendra Tripathi denied responsibility for the attacks.
"Congress party is of the view that the riots in Muzaffarnagar were orchestrated to gain political advantage of the communal divide,” Tripathi said.
The officers concerned were not given orders in time. Leadership kept waiting for things to go out of hands. BJP and SP are both to be blamed.
“It was a pact between them to flare up communal passions and that is why no action is being taken against the BJP leaders booked for instigating riots."
Muzaffarnagar anti-Muslim attacks are not the first in India.
Violence pitting Muslims against Hindus has been a defining feature of Indian politics since the country's traumatic separation from Pakistan in 1947, when hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions were displaced.
Religion and caste violence plays a central role in politics in Uttar Pradesh, one of India's poorest states with a population larger than that of Russia.
In 1992, 2,000 people were killed in riots after the demolition of a 16th century mosque built near a sacred Hindu site in the Uttar Pradesh town of Ayodhya, on the banks of the Ganges river.
Hindu political mobilization around that conflict thrust the BJP onto the national stage and played a role in bringing it to power in the late 1990s.
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