Selective Outrage: India’s Opposition Parties Are In Solidarity With UP Farmers But Silent About Attacks on ...

Over the last three weeks, two major politically sponsored massacres took place in India. One is in the Hindi heartland in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the other one in the far-flung northeastern state of Assam. Both states used to be strongholds of the Congress party till a decade ago, but now they have Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led governments.

Riots, state-sponsored atrocities, minority targeting and crushing all kinds of protests and voices of dissent are not new for the BJP. But what is surprising is the selective outrage by secular opposition parties while treating the two carnages.

Almost every party jumped into the scene and wanted to be seen on ground zero at Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri, where on October 2, protesting farmers from Lakhimpur and adjoining Bahraich district were mowed down by a speeding vehicle allegedly being driven by the son of a BJP minister. Four people, including a journalist, were killed in the attack.

Home Minister Amit Shah’s junior colleague Ajay Mishra’s son was allegedly behind the wheels when this terrible act took place, where three SUV’s belonging to BJP workers slew the farmers. A few minutes before the incident, the Mishra father-son duo were at a public rally at Lakhimpur where Ajay Mishra told the crowd that before he became a minister, he was known for long as a tough guy and that he has the means and can throw out these farmers outside Uttar Pradesh in just two minutes.

These cold-blooded killings grabbed the attention of both the media and secular opposition parties. A senior leader of the Congress party, including Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, rushed to the spot. Leaders of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) also tried to reach Lakhimpur soon after. Both BSP and SP are key political players in Uttar Pradesh. Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh also tried to make his way to ground zero and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress also rushed two of its senior members.

Nobody could reach the victims for nearly two days as they were either illegally detained at the Lucknow Airport or were put under house arrest. But no one wanted to miss being part of the tragedy.

Massacre of Muslim peasants in Assam

However just 10 days before Lakhimpur, on September 22, a similar state-sponsored killing was carried out at Darrang in Assam where government forces evicted some 800 peasant families from their homes. Mostly comprising of Assamese and Bengali-speaking Muslims, who farmed and lived on the land, were ruthlessly beaten and driven out of their homes where they had been living for generations.

Some protesters also faced bullets. Two peasants died in the incident and about a dozen were injured. A photographer accompanying the police team was seen jumping and dancing on the dead body of a Muslim peasant and even hitting it, an extreme case of desecration unheard of in South Asian culture.

For the BJP, most of these Muslims who have been living there for generations are infiltrators from Bangladesh. About 35 percent of the Assam population is Muslim and for the BJP, the Bengali-speaking Hindus are Indians and the Bengali Muslims are illegal immigrants, who should be sent to any Islamic country.

While BJP’s hatred for minorities and protesters is well-known, the two incidences have exposed the double standards of secular political parties. Contrary to Lakhimpur, where a battery of senior party leaders across political parties remained in the news, protesting the killings and trying to rush to the crime scene and the houses of the victims, no such commotion was seen at Assam. It was a matter best left for the state leadership of the parties to deal with.

Also, since assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, all parties want their presence to be registered. For the opposition, this was also an important incident to corner the BJP and its chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who is confident of getting a second term.

Lest We Forget

The Congress Party, for over 50 years, has managed to stay in power because of Muslims but now wants to abandon them just to keep the Hindu majority happy. Lest we forget history, Professor Emeritus Akhtural Wasey, of Jamia Millia Islamia University told The Friday Times: “It was on the call of Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress Party that the Indian Muslims rejected Muhammad Ali Jinnah and chose India as their home.”

Professor Wasey, who teaches Islamic Studies, also told TFT that he believes that an overwhelming majority of Hindus are secular and that political parties should abandon communal hatred tools to stay in power.

“If they (political parties) want India to be a Vishwa Guru (World Leader) then their concern should be Hindustan and not Hindu and Muslim,” he adds.

But the Congress party denies its double standards and says that the party’s response in both Assam and Uttar Pradesh has been the same and that it has not abandoned any of its voters. “Whenever there is an act of atrocity by the state, the Congress has stood up for it,” said party spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh while speaking to TFT.

Singh has also been a former member of the Uttar Pradesh assembly. Justifying Priyanka Gandhi’s absence in Assam, he added: “She is the party-state in charge for Uttar Pradesh and so she came here. The state in-charge for Assam had visited the victims and our fight for them victimized peasants is still on.”

The writer is a journalist based in India.