Total collapse of order

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Uttar Pradesh Government has lost the plot

The Samajwadi Party Government of Uttar Pradesh cannot escape accountability by blaming the Opposition for the violence in Muzaffarnagar that has claimed more than 20 lives. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's administration has failed spectacularly to read signs of trouble on more than one occasion, which has resulted in the State being rocked by dozens of communal clashes since the Samajwadi Party took over the reins. The Muzaffarnagar incident is one more in that long list of failures.

Like in other cases before this, trouble began in a rather innocuous manner, and had the local police acted promptly, it could have been nipped in the bud. According to reports, a man from a particular religious community teased a woman from another. Some members of the latter group then attacked the accused. Soon, the issue snowballed into a communal confrontation. The police and the administration remained almost mute spectators as killings began. Eventually, the State Government sought the Army's assistance.

It is very well for Mr Yadav and his party to point fingers at the Opposition and round up a few BJP legislators and a former Congress MP for allegedly breaching prohibitory orders in the area now under curfew, but what had stopped the State regime from acting promptly when the trouble initially began? Also, is the Government telling us that none of its local-level leaders is involved? The Samajwadi Party blames the Opposition for inflaming communal passions as the Lok Sabha election draws near but glosses over the role that its own local leaders have played in the clashes that have become a recurring phenomenon under its rule. Given Mr Yadav's abysmal track record as Chief Minister, the party believes that its best chance to cut political losses lies in polarising voters — and communal disturbance is a time-tested method which it has frequently employed.

This is the reason why the State Government has been manufacturing the threat of communal discord even when there is none. It used a massive security force to abort the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's 84-Kosi Yatra in parts of the State on the imagined pretext that the event would lead to communal disharmony; it transferred IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal on the specious explanation that her directive to demolish an illegally built wall around a mosque in a village could have led to communal violence. But the Samajwadi Party regime could do little as various regions of the State, from Lucknow to Meerut to Allahabad and more, were hit by communal clashes. The administration and the police which were hyperactive in the suspension of the IAS officer and in the clampdown on the VHP's plans could not contain the various riots.

The Samajwadi Party believes that its politics of confrontation — pitting one community against the other and one caste against the other — will fetch it electoral benefits in the coming general election. This is unlikely because members of the minority community have wised up to the ruling party's gameplan of divide and rule. The violence hits them as hard as it impacts the other sides. The sad part is: The more this realisation dawns on the Samajwadi Party the more it persists with its devious methods in the hope that it will eventually succeed.

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