NEW DELHI -- Now that BJP MP Hukum Singh's tale about hundreds of Hindu families "fleeing" Kairana due to the terror unleashed by the Muslims has been shown up to be a rather tall tale, Bhartiya Janata Party President Amit Shah looks like a man who is happy to make an incendiary claim without cursory checks.
For a man who runs India's ruling party, that's something of a disappointment.
India fell into the grip of the Kairana fever after Amit Shah took up the matter at BJP's Parivartan rally in Allahabad on Sunday.
“Do you want such an exodus from U.P.? If you do not want that, then remove this SP government from power,” he said at the meeting, referring to the Samajwadi Party in the context of the upcoming U.P. election.
As president of the BJP, Shah knows that his words carry tremendous weight not just in Uttar Pradesh, but across the nation. The BJP sent a fact finding team after media and state government reports exposed Hukum Singh's claims.
There now seems to be broad agreement that there has been an exodus over the years, of both Hindu and Muslim families, and it has happened due to deteriorating law and order and bleak prospects of jobs and industry. But before ascertaining any of this, why did Shah air such an incendiary claim?
Not only did Shah give credence to Hukum Singh claims, the BJP President highlighted it as a campaign issue for the U.P. polls.
It is all the more troubling that he didn't pause to consider the sensitivity of the regions--western Uttar Pradesh is among the most communally sensitive regions in the country, with a history of sectarian violence, large and small.
Kairana is located in Shamli district, where deadly religious violence between Hindus and Muslims erupted in 2013, the bitterness of which still pervades the area. Shamli is around 150 kilometers from Bisada village, another communally sensitive hotspot, where a Muslim ironsmith was murdered by a mob alleging that he slaughtered a cow, last year. Tensions in Bisada village are once again on the rise after the meat in question was identified as belonging to a cow, and Hindu families are calling for the arrest of Mohammad Akhlaq's family members.
Hukum Singh was booked for making hate speeches which caused the religious violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in 2013.
When this reporter visited Bisada village on Tuesday, Kairana was the talk of the village, even though media reports had already rubbished Singh's claims.
"Do you see what is happening in Kairana, the Muslims are driving out Hindus, but this government doesn't give a damn," said a young Hindu man, in his early twenties, spitting on the ground to show his wrath for the Samajwadi Party.
"Do you see Bisada village, here we have Hindus in majority and Muslims are less. But do you see us driving out Muslims?," he said, surrounded by several of his friends.
On the Internet, this misinformation had spread far and wide, with #StopHinduExodus trending on Twitter.
Several newspapers have reported that among the 350 Hindus, there are some who alleged harassment by Muslims gangs, but the vast majority have left for more mundane reasons such as better jobs and better schools for their children.
BJP was forced to backtrack after the fact checks by the media and local police exposed glaring gaps in their claims about Kairana.
The Uttar Pradesh police was already refuting Singh's claim even before Shah made it an election campaign issue, but this the BJP could have attributed to pressure from the ruling Samajwadi Party.
From hundreds of Hindus fleeing Kairana, now BJP has changed it story to Hindu traders facing harassment by Muslim goons and extortionists in Kairana, who are operating out of jail.
The district administration's report now says only three families have left Kairana due to the threat of criminal gangs. Hukum Singh's original claim was 386.
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