Updated: Feb 6, 2021
MUZAFFARNAGAR/MEERUT: Eight years ago, three deaths and a mahapanchayat had set off a chain of events that led to three weeks of riots in Muzaffarnagar. The communal divide it created ran deep.
In the villages of Muzaffarnagar, many Muslims and Jats are putting the bloody history behind them to come together for the farmers’ protest. “It is time to move on,” said Asad Zama, a lawyer who was witness to the riots. “Both communities shape the politics of western UP.
Together, we can do a lot.” In 2013, Muslim members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), led by founding member Ghulam Mohammad Jola, had walked out of the outfit. BKU chief Naresh Tikait and his brother, Rakesh, spokesperson of the outfit, had allegedly attended the mahapanchayat where inflammatory speeches had been made before Muzaffarnagar descended into riots. The Tikait brothers were booked for inciting communal violence and Jola, holding BKU accountable, quit.
Recently at another mahapanchayat, Jola shared the stage with Naresh and embraced him. It was a day after Rakesh’s tearyeyed appeal from the Ghazipur border, which led to waves of farmers joining the protests at Delhi borders again. Jola, who had been a close aide to the Tikait brothers’ father and influential farmer leader Mahender, struck a note of reconciliation.
“Eight years have passed. Both Jats and Muslims have seen the losses that came with drifting apart, both politically and
structurally. Now, we are together. The Muzaffarnagar mahapanchayat was the beginning. I am hopeful that this camaraderie
will endure and help build bridges among people,” he said. It is an uneasy truce but one they are firm on. “It’s a good
start. The pressing matter is farmers’ welfare, irrespective of faith,” said Ashok Balyan, a Muzaffarnagar-based farmer
leader. “We are the biggest farmer communities of western UP. We are all affected. Coming together with a sense of
brotherhood is good for the both of us,” said Sharanvir Deshwal, another farmer leader.
Some, however, felt it was too soon to read too much into what is essentially an act of solidarity. “The divide that was created in
2013 has been deep. It will take time for the scars to heal,” Ashok said. “Coming together does not mean a political union. It is
out of necessity.” Rizwan Ahmad, an activist and riot victim who now lives in Shamli, was also sceptical.