[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]tartling allegations have surfaced from Kairana, a small town in Shamli district of western Uttar Pradesh, that for the past two years Hindu families have been forced to migrate out of fear of a dreaded gangster, Mukim Kala. Kairana is barely 124 kms from Delhi.
The news, broken on June 9 by the television network Zee News, has since captured national attention, mainly on social media, with the mainstream print media largely ignoring the story or covering it only tangentially.
By all accounts, criminals rule the roost in Kairana city where an organised extortion racket has caused farmers and traders to fear for their lives. Dreaded gangster Mukim Kala, who allegedly killed four businessmen in 2014, for refusing to fulfill his demands, allegedly continues to run his extortion racket from jail.
While only an official enquiry can bring out the truth, the local MP, Hukum Singh (Bharatiya Janata Party), has compiled a list of 346 families which fled Kairana, selling their homes and businesses at dirt cheap prices, on account of extortions, murders, and other forms of violence. It is a strange coincidence that all victims of these crimes are Hindus. Many families have shifted to nearby villages in Haryana.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]K[/dropcap]airana, according to Zee News, reportedly had 30 percent Hindu and 68 percent Muslim population as per 2011 census. But the Hindu population declined to eight percent in 2016 while the Muslim population rose to 92 percent in the same period, according to local officials. Locals say the town has “turned into Pakistan” and lawlessness is rampant.
As most migrating families were well-off traders or farmers, BJP MP Hukum Singh opines that they were likely harassed with a view to secure their properties. Kairana lawyer Meherban Qureshi supports Hukum Singh’s claim that an atmosphere of fear has gripped the city and “no person has the liberty to roam around freely”.
Tired of endless extortion threats and demands through letters or telephones, the 346 families, mainly local traders and well-off farmers, sold their land and houses and fled. They said the extortion calls were made from inside the jail where Kala is currently lodged. “If one refuses to give protection money, he is killed by the henchmen. We have no option but to leave the city to save our lives”, a trader told the media. A farmer who had sold a plot of land received a demand for Rs 10 lakh; feeling that the police could not help him, he sold the rest of his land and is planning to leave the town.
Caught on the back foot, the Uttar Pradesh Police claim to be investigating the complaints but deny such a large exodus has taken place in a span of just two years. Ashok Kumar Raghav, DIG, Saharanpur Range, said, “I have heard of a list and we have asked for it too. We will verify each and every name on it. Some people from there came to meet me and have told me that they have not fled and that their names have just been added to that list”.
But the administration’s claims were dented by the National Human Rights Commission finding prima facie merit in the allegations after some individual cases were brought to its attention. The NHRC has served notices on the UP Chief Secretary and Director General of Police to answer allegations that families of a particular religion are leaving the area due to fear of a criminal. Their reply, expected to be furnished within four weeks, would throw light on the events and motives behind the exodus.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he National Human Rights Commission has also directed the UP DIG (Investigation) to enquire into allegations that a Hindu woman was abducted, gang-raped and murdered on June 10, 2016 and no complaint was registered owing to political pressure. The NHRC has also sought information on reports that two businessmen, Shankar and Raju, both brothers, were shot dead in broad daylight in the market when they did not pay protection money to the criminals.
Forced to become pro-active in the matter, the Shamli district magistrate Sujeet Kumar has secured a copy of the migrants’ list from Hukum Singh (MP, BJP) and set up an enquiry committee under the SDM Kirana to verify the allegations.
Hukum Singh has already met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to apprise him of the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity in the area, particularly among women. “It is now up to the government and the district administration to decide what they would do to stop Hindu families from leaving Kairana. This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue as is being projected by some, it’s a matter of harassment of residents of Kairana. This situation had started developing soon after the SP came to power and intensified after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013,” he alleged.
With Assembly elections due next year, the issue has acquired a political tint. The BJP central office is expected to send an 11-member delegation, including MPs from western UP, to assess the situation. Accusing the ruling Samajwadi Party government of patronising those behind the violence, Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan says, “Hooliganism has happened under government rule… The government of UP is protecting the culprits”. The BJP state unit chief, K.P. Maurya, also set up a committee which visited Kairana on June 10, and party sources said Rajnath Singh is expected to visit the area towards the end of the month and meet the affected families.
Pushed on the defensive, the Samajwadi Party countered that events were being blown up all out of proportion, “This incident points to an attempt to polarise the atmosphere in western UP. This is the same BJP MP who earlier said he wouldn’t let those living in Muzaffarnagar relief camps vote. Some isolated incidents are being taken out of context and hyped up”.
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