Muzaffarnagar Violence Accused Sangeet Som in UP Poll Spotlight
NEW DELHI: Controversial Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Som seems to be at it again. The state police claim to have seized CDs from his poll campaign vehicle carrying controversial clips of the Muzaffarnagar violence of 2013 that is widely credited with catapulting the BJP to power in the western districts of the state.
The MLA who was not in the vehicle has denied the charges. The police has filed a case against the driver of the vehicle with the Meerut District Magistrate B.Chandrakala confirming, “We got a complaint from a source that a CD with clippings of Muzaffarnagar riots is being played on the election campaign vehicle of Sangeet Som in Sardhana area. I immediately called up the sub-divisional magistrate of Sardhana to look into the matter, who further informed police and seized the CD from the spot.”
Som, an obscure legislator before 2013, rose to prominence with the Muzaffarnagar violence just before the Lok Sabha elections that was sparked off by rumours, unrestricted panchayats where local political leaders spewed venom against the minorities, and the wide circulation of a video that was from Pakistan but circulated in the area as depicting local Muslims. Som was widely credited with the uploading and subsequent circulation of the video that incited the violence, and kept Muzaffarnagar and adjoining districts and rural areas simmering for weeks and months. He was arrested under the National Security Act, and released later as a virtual hero garlanded by workers of the BJP and its affiliates.
Despite the charges and FIRs against him, Som emerged as a major BJP face for western UP. He was felicitated at local functions, and given Z class category by the central government. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission appointed on the Muzaffarnagar violence indicted Sangeet Som amongst others, for making provocative speeches and circulating a fake video clip that led to the communal violence. Despite the charges of provoking communal tension he has been given a ticket for the forthcoming elections in UP and is said to be close to party president Amit Shah who is supervising the polls.
Som has continued to be at communal trouble spots in western UP, where Jats and Muslims were pitted against each other on the basis of rumours and unsubstantiated propaganda, since 2013. In 2014 ear the UP police again filed a FIR against him in the wake of violence in Kaanth teshil in Moradabad where BJP workers came out in protest against the reported removal of a loudspeaker from a temple. The police, having learnt from Muzaffarnagar that still has not returned to normalcy till today, moved in to prevent a mahapanchyat from being held by the BJP leaders in the area. Significantly Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh intervened in the local incident informing PTI that “ a report has been sought from the UP government on the incident.”
Again in 2015 Som played a major role in the wake of what has come to be known as the Dadri lynching, where a Muslim man was beaten to death by a mob for allegedly storing beef. The district authorities filed a chargesheet against Som later for allegedly violating prohibitory orders imposed in Dadri’s Bishada village where the violence had taken place, and where again the level of communal tension was very high. The authorities said that they were taking action against those trying to incite communal violence at the time by spreading rumours, or making inflammatory speeches.
Som, through a sustained campaign over the Dadri incident, managed to place himself at the head of the gau rakshaks in western UP. He warned that a befitting answer would be given if the state government tried to arrest any innocents, and went on to demand he release of those arrested for the crime, as well as action against the victim’s family for cows slaughter. In a highly provcative speech he was quoted as saying, “They (the Akhlaq family) were taken by the Uttar Pradesh government (to Lucknow) in an airplane. How they treated the accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, they are treating those who have slaughtered a cow the same way.”
And again,“but law or administration should not be under the misunderstanding that innocent boys can be framed… Don’t threaten us with being imprisoned. Earlier too we (served time), we will go in again, there is no problem. But we will never tolerate this kind of torture. Such atrocities will not be tolerated at any cost… You can get around 50,000 people and I will get 50,000. We will send one lakh after the administration, but I will not let anyone harass you.”
And again,“If innocent people are framed, we are not the ones who will sit silently. Our blood is not such that suffers torture.”
Ironically The Hindu newspaper at the time carried an investigative piece stating that despite this stance Som himself was a founder of one of India’s leading halal meat export companies, Al-Dua Food Processing Private Ltd.
Sangeet Som is contesting the forthcoming elections from Sardhana Assembly constituency from where he is elected. He is in august company, in that the BJP has fielded another Muzaffarnagar violence accused Suresh Rana from Thana Bhawan. He had also been arrested for the same. A new addition is Suchi Mausham Chaudhary, the wife of the prime accused in the recent Bijnore communal violence Aishwarya Chaudhary.
“It is true that on the basis of the FIR lodged by SI Subodh Kumar Singh under sections 153A/420/120B of the IPC and section 66A of the IT Act, a case was registered against Sangeet Som and 229 others, who had shared the said video clip but in my view, till the case arising out of the said CR (police case) is decided, the averments in the FIR of the said CR would only remain an allegation. I am further of the view that since an FIR has been lodged against Sangeet Som and 229 others it would not be open for state government to take further penal action.”
On the speeches of Muslim leaders, the commission noted that the leaders were giving “provocative speeches against Hindus, which were adversely affecting communal harmony and inciting the Muslims against the Hindus. Prima facie, it appears that the speeches of the aforesaid persons were one of the causes for the subsequent communal riots.”
About the provocative speeches made by the Hindus and Jat leaders in the Maha Panchayat held in Nagla Mandaur on September 7, 2013, the commission observed that a doubt may arise in the minds of people as to why it was not holding them responsible.
“Answer to the said doubt is to be found in the evidence of RM Srivastava, principal secretary (home) government of UP, who stated in cross examination that the failure to record these provocative speeches was an administrative failure.”