Uttar Pradesh rocked: Hindu-Muslim violence erupts
as India's electoral battle looms

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Politicians accused of inflaming tensions after Muslims flee homes in Uttar Pradesh


The streets are stilled, the doors shuttered. Hundreds of people have fled. Over the course of a day, up to 1,000 Muslims left this village in fear for their lives. A number were killed, several homes were torched and someone tried to set alight to the mosque.

“Our home was set on fire and eight people were killed,” claimed Rahisha Begum, one of hundreds of Muslims taking refuge in a emergency shelter in the nearby town of Shapar. “Our women were molested. People were cut into pieces.”

The people of the twin villages of Kutbi and Kutba are among more than 40,000 Muslims forced from their homes in some of the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in western Uttar Pradesh for decades. A smaller number of Hindus have also fled and at least 48 people have died.

Communal violence is nothing new to India or to UP, the huge, impoverished but politically crucial state which returns 80 members to the national parliament. But what has created particular concern about the latest bloodletting is the central role local politicians apparently took in turning a localised incident into something much more deadly, and doing so for political gains.

There are fears that ahead of an upcoming general election, which will see the controversial Narendra Modi - a politician whose name is associated with one of the worst massacres of Muslims since 1947 – try to wrestle control from the ruling Congress party, such incidents could become more frequent.

Kutba, 15 miles from Muzzaffarnager, is one of 90 villages affected by the violence. As with most of the other villages, sugar cane is among the most important of crops grown here. And as with the other villages, members of the Hindu jat caste have traditionally owned most of the land, while Muslims have worked as agricultural labourers.

Unlike in other parts of UP, members of both communities here said they had always coexisted without violence. That ended following an incident on August 27 in Kawaal, 25 miles away, when a young Muslim man was killed after an altercation with two Hindu youths. The following day, the two Hindus were killed in revenge.

On September 7, tens of thousands of Hindus gathered to demand justice for the two young men killed. Several local politicians addressed the rally, some of them reportedly making inflammatory speeches.

Over the following 48 hours, more than 25 people were killed, including a cameraman with a local news channel. Hindus said they were attacked by Muslims as they left the rally. Muslims said they were set upon by Hindus. The violence spread, and dragged on, and the authorities sent in the army.

Those who fled say they are too terrified to return. “We will not be going back there,” said Muhammad Usman, who was also at the emergency shelter.

Muhammad Abrar, who said a brother and three uncles were killed, referred to Mr Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Though he was unable to offer any proof, he claimed the BJP, which last week named Mr Modi as its candidate for prime minister, had been paying people to attack Muslims.

“We don’t want Narendra Modi as prime minister,” he added. “He would be very bad for Muslims.”

But in Kutba, on the road to which dozens of egrets flashed toothpaste-white amid the green of the sugar-cane, there was a different story. Here the Hindu villagers claimed Muslims had left in an attempt to secure government compensation. They had even set fire to their own homes, they said.

“All the Muslims came together to plan this,” said 78-year-old Harbir Singh, seated on a rope-strung bed. “They think they will get their own township.”

The villagers led the way through the quiet streets, pointing out deserted Muslim homes, one which had been destroyed by fire. Even amid the charred debris at the house apparently owned by a man named Idriss, the villagers stuck to their claim that Muslims were responsible.

At the village mosque, there was more evidence of arson; someone had thrown kerosene over a door and lit a match. Why it had not taken hold was unclear.

Asked if Muslims had also set fire to the mosque, one villager, Chaudhary Vikas Balian, said Hindus from another village were responsible. As it was, he said, the people from Kutba had driven them off and saved the building.

The BJP’s selection of Mr Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, has electrified India’s election campaign. Even though he has not visited this part of UP and while there is no suggestion he was behind the violence, his name is mentioned by those on either side of the clashes.

Swapan Dasgupta, an analyst, said Muslims in western UP had built Mr Modi into a bogeyman while Hindus projected him as someone who would protect them against Muslim advancement. “It’s paranoia in the mind,” he said.

The situation has been further complicated by local politics. Several major parties are looking to make gains in the election and the Samajwadi Party, which runs the UP state government and which draws much support from Muslims, has even been accused of failing to stop the violence in order to cement the community’s support for the party.

Reports suggest that 16 politicians face arrest; four BJP politicians have already been detained. Arun Kumar, a senior UP police official, said a team had been established to probe the killings. He said five deaths in Kutba were being investigated. He said: “We have set up a special cell to look at all these cases.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn