HAVING KICKED off a storm last year with his “list” of 346 Hindu families that had allegedly been forced to leave Kairana due to threats from “Muslim gangsters”, Hukum Singh, the local MP from BJP, on Saturday said it was not a communal but “law and order” issue. “It’s not about Hindus or Muslims. The ruling party here (Samajwadi Party) has given patronage to criminals – that’s the issue. That forces people to leave Kairana,” Singh told The Sunday Express on a day Kairana, along with 72 other constituencies of western UP voted in the first of the seven-phase election. A town with a population of over 1 lakh, Kairana is nearly 80 —per cent Muslim.
Is Kairana like Kashmir of the 1990s — when Pandits were forced to leave the Valley — as the likes of Yogi Adityanath claim? “It’s like Kashmir to the extent that people migrated from Kashmir, and people are migrating from here, too,” said Singh, whose daughter Mriganka is the BJP candidate from Kairana Assembly seat.
Singh, 78, is not the stereotypical western UP politician. Articulate and soft-spoken, he is respected across party and communal lines. On the exodus issue, even though many voters differ from him, they do so respectfully, referring to him as ‘Babu-ji’, or ‘Babu Hukum Singh’.
“Babu-ji ki rajnaitik majboori hai (To raise this issue was Babuji’s political compulsion),” said Nadeem Siddiqui, who claimed to have voted for the ‘Cycle’ (SP). “Perhaps because the BJP was losing ground, his nephew (now estranged and fighting on an RLD ticket) lost the by-election to (SP’s) Nahid Hasan. People have of course left Kairana because of extortion threats and killings, but victims are both Hindus and Muslims. There has never been a communal issue in Kairana.”
It’s a common refrain here. Radhe Lal, 82, walked out of the polling station at Islamiaya School, the ink on his forefinger fresh. He is hard of hearing but his memory is sharp. He remembers Partition: “Jamna yahan se paanch par kilometer hai. Us-se pare saare Musalmaan maar diye thhe ya bhaga diye the. Lekin Kairana mein tab bhi aman thha. (Yamuna is 5 km from here. In 1947, all Muslims beyond the Yamuna had been killed or made to leave, but there was peace in Kairana even then.)”