- Lal Bahadur Singh
Along with the continuing spate of assaults on dalits, women, and other weaker sections of society, recently, two major incidents rocked the state: gangrape of Muslim women in Shravasti and the showdown on the issue of the Ambedkar Stadium.
Only a few months back, when the Allahabad Madarsa rape case was reported, Mayawati, as opposition leader, was quick to react. She had reached Allahabad, charged Samajwadi Party for the rape of Muslim girls and demanded CBI inquiry. However times have changed and Behanji is now Chief Minister of the state. Hence the attack on the Muslim hamlet and gangrape of the women is no longer a big issue! In fact when the issue was raised in the State Assembly, even two days after the gruesome attack took place, Mayawati’s Cabinet colleague, Lalji Verma expressed complete ignorance about it! While the fact is that the whole operation was masterminded and patronized by none else but the State Minister Dadan Mishra and implemented on the ground by his brother. According to reports, the Minister’s brother himself led the lumpen mob in attacking the poor toiling Muslim populace of Dhannidih, a remote village near Nepal border. The immediate ‘provocation’ for the attack was the fact that Vandana Dwivedi, a Brahmin girl from the neighboring village Dharmantapur and Salim, a Muslim youth of village Dhannidih fell in love and obviously apprehending threat, left the village and went to some other place. This was enough to hurt the feudal pride of the Brahmin BSP MLA and Minister from the area as well as his kinsmen. The Minister’s brother Ashok Mishra organized the goons from Dharmantapur and other neighboring villages and attacked Dhannidih’s Muslim basti in broad day light. Muslims were beaten, their belongings looted. The women were paraded naked and raped. When they went to Sirsia Thana to lodge an FIR, they were beaten up. Then they approached the SP in Shravasti, but of no avail because the whole thing was ‘managed’ by the Minister from above! When the question was raised in the State Assembly and it appeared set to snowball into a big political issue, the government was forced to initiate administrative action. But giving a clean chit to the accused Minister, Mayawati rejected the demand for his resignation.
Brazenly brushing aside the statement of the aggrieved women, who deposed before the officials as well as publicly before TV cameras, the administration denied the rape charges on the basis of medical test, undertaken when sufficient time had passed to erase all signs of rape.
With a large Muslim population this entire belt is a happy hunting ground for the communal forces. As a PUHR Investigation led by Shri Raj Narain Mishra revealed, elements of the RSS, BJP and Hindu Yuva Vahini (Yogi Adityanath’s brigade) from the neighboring Balrampur district have stepped in to fish in the troubled waters. The old BJP social base is now wearing BSP uniform, and the demarcation between BJP and BSP was completely obliterated in the communal campaign. It was interesting to see BSP and BJP leaders acting in unison on the ground. In Lucknow, too, BSP government, interested in concealing and diluting the issue, found an ally in BJP who, too, quite understandably, blamed the whole episode on Muslims. However to the advantage of Mayawati, the Congress of ‘secular’ Sonia Gandhi, too, in view of the Presidential election and perhaps long-term arrangements, preferred to keep silence on the rape of the Muslim women.
It is obvious that with every passing day the inherent contradictions of the Sarvajan Sarkar are coming to the fore and it is a tightrope walk for Mayawati to balance the antagonistic interests. The social base which shifted overnight from BJP to BSP did not undergo any change of its class interests and prejudices. Rather it opted for BSP precisely to further its own interests, thereby forcing a change upon the BSP itself in consonance with its new Sarvajan politics. Obviously, the dynamics of ‘Change of Heart’ in human relations is a much more complex process than the medical Heart Transplants! It will be interesting to see how long Mayawati can succeed in balancing or concealing and suppressing the real life conflicts of her new social base.
In yet another act of highhandedness, the Mayawati govt. got the Ambedkar Stadium situated in Gomti Nagar vacated. The eviction exercise took place at midnight. However the Allahabad HC promptly intervened and restrained her from taking over the stadium before the final order. The main petitioner in the High Court was arrested and harassed, 3 of the other petitioners were forced to withdraw their names from the petition. Later the High Court directed her to restore the Stadium, unlocking the facilities including the reputed cricket hostel which produced players like Raina and RP Singh for the Indian Cricket Team. In view of the court’s tough stance and the issue snowballing into a political controversy, the Government is now rolling back its plan of demolition of the stadium in the name of expansion of the Ambedkar Monument situated in its vicinity.
Obviously, contrary to the myth which some try to popularize these days, Mayawati has not learnt much from the unenviable fate of her predecessor Mulayam Singh nor from her own past. She is back to her old games. It is a wake-up call for the democratic forces in the state.