Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father,
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, have time and
again expressed their indebtedness to Muslims for voting them to
power in the assembly elections earlier this year.
"Many innocent Muslim youths have been framed in cooked up cases.
We will always help such people," Mulayam Singh told IANS
recently. Muslims comprise about 19 percent of the 200 million
population of the country's most populous state and are hence
wooed by all parties.
The father-son duo have said in the past that cases against
"innocent" Muslims arrested in "false" terrorism cases would be
dropped. The government thereafter moved Oct 31 a notification
seeking withdrawal of cases against the accused in the March 7,
2006, serial bombing cases that ripped through Varanasi and killed
The government's move, other than inviting criticism from parties
like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has also been resented by
the bureaucracy. "This is a dangerous precedent that we are
setting," said a government official, adding that not only would
this divide the state on strong communal lines but would also
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief and former chief minister Mayawati
also slammed the SP government for "letting off terrorists".
Talking to reporters outside parliament in New Delhi, Mayawati
said her party would raise the matter in the house as this move
could set a dangerous precedent.
Allahabad High Court Thursday rapped Akhilesh Yadav's government
on the matter.
A bench of Justice R.K. Agarwal and Justice R.S.R. Maurya
observed: "Today you are releasing them, tomorrow you may give
them the Padma Bhushan." The court also said that whether one was
accused or not was a matter to be decided by courts, not
Through the Oct 31 notification, the state government had sought
to withdraw cases against all those accused in the serial blasts
at Varanasi's Dashvashmedh Ghat, the Cantonment railway station
and the famous Hanuman temple, Sankatmochan. The bench asked the
state government on what grounds the cases were being withdrawn.
The petition against the government's move was filed by social
activist Rakesh Srivastava and advocate Nityanand Chaubey.
The bench questioned the state government whether the move would
not encourage criminals and terrorism.
The court's observations, many feel, were not only justified but
"due for a long time". BJP leader Kalraj Mishra accused the
government of "playing with national security for petty vote bank
politics". He added: "This is a very serious matter and we have
been raising this for a very long time. I am happy that the
judiciary has taken note of it."
Mohammad Rafae, public relations secretary with the Students
Islamic organization (SIO), which held a massive protest against
the arrest and detention of Muslims by the police in Lucknow,
Thursday called the moves by the "SP government mere lip service".
He pointed out the case of a certain Shakeel from Sitapur who, he
alleged, was wrongfully arrested recently. "We have been given
assurances by many, including Revenue Minister Ambika Chowdhary,
that no innocent person would be arrested or harassed, but that's
not happening," Rafae said.
"If someone is guilty and there is evidence against him, he should
be arrested, but innocent students should not be harassed," he
There are 63 Muslim legislators in the 403-member state assembly,
40 of whom are from the SP.
While many SP leaders admit in private that the move was
"triggering a major votes polarisation", they said they would have
to do it for the sake of "Mission 2014". Mulayam Singh, however,
is more forthright and says that a lot of "innocent Muslims have
been framed by previous governments and that the SP government
would do all that is possible to help them".
Officials in the state government, however, say that the judicial
reprimand was egg on the face of the government, which might force
it to do a rethink.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)