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Selective sympathy?

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That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited riot-affected Muzaffarnagar in Uttar...

That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited riot-affected Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, though a week after communal disturbances, is unexceptionable despite carping by Opposition parties. After all, that was the least that they, like leaders of all other parties, could have done after having failed to prevent violence in that district which claimed 44 lives. In fact, they acted wisely in having let the communal fires subside, both metaphorically and literally, before they set foot in the district.

After all, it has been the misfortune of India over years that every time there is a tragedy, whether a bomb blast or a communal riot, political leaders of all hues rush to the site, ostensibly to show their sympathy for the victims but in fact to draw political capital out of it. In the process, these worthies attract to themselves the attention of official agencies extending relief to victims. That happened during the Mumbai mayhem in 2008 and also the Dilsukhnagar bomb blast in Hyderabad more recently. They are happy to be photographed on the sites of misfortune with the kith and kin of victims as a sort of investment in the next elections.

But it is clear that the masses are no longer willing to be fooled by politicians, as proved by the black flags that greeted UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav during his belated visit to Muzaffarnagar, that too just before the Delhi trio’s trip. When it is becoming clear that almost every political party had a vested interest in the Muzaffarnagar riots and, therefore, fanned them even if all of them did not actually instigate them, there is mounting evidence to suggest that both Hindus and Muslims have realized that they share the same destiny in the same village, town or city, and that politicians are out to deprive them of their manifest destiny of happy co-existence. News channels have for days been showing Hindus and Muslims uniting in public places and declaring that they are one and nobody can divide them. That is understandable in the light of the fact that they have co-existed harmoniously for decades and that they have both suffered in the recent riots: If Muslims fled villages where Jats were in majority, Jats fled Muslim-majority villages.

Now that the process of reconciliation has started spontaneously, it can only be a matter of time before they get back to the old ways of peaceful and harmonious co-existence. Meanwhile, no political party or leader should behave as if only one community suffered loss of life or property in the riots, though there may be a degree of difference. Therefore, it is surprising that while Dr Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi visited Muslim victims, they steered clear of areas where Jats suffered.
One cannot be selective in sympathizing with suffering. The trio would have won praise, and possibly votes in the next parliamentary elections, if they had also visited areas where Jats suffered. Communal consolidation in the run-up to every election is not something unknown to India. Even in the present case it is clear that Muzaffarnagar riots would probably not have occurred if parliamentary elections had not been due in 2014. But elections are won with votes of the living, not by body count.
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