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'Pilibhit has no history of violence or communal disharmony'

March 19, 2009 21:26 IST
Contrary to Varun Gandhi's loud declaration, terming Pilibhit as a "violence-prone" district plagued with "communal discord", it seems Pilibhit has no history of violence or communal disharmony.

"Official records will tell you that there has been no major communal clash in this district in the two decades that I have been associated with this place", declared V.M.Singh, a prominent Samajwadi Party - turned - Congress leader, who has earned much credibility with the local farmers on account of his commitment and dedication to their cause.

Even locally well known SP leader Haroon Ahmed Ahmad felt, "Varun Gandhi was talking off his hat if he said this place is violence prone and that a lot of rapes were being committed here."

According to a senior police official, who held charge of the district until sometime back, "Varun has just cooked up stories of rape of Hindu girls ; in each of the half a dozen rape cases sought to be highlighted by him, the accused was a Hindu, against whom appropriate action too had been taken."

On the condition of anonymity, he added, "Varun's obvious aim behind all the loud talk of Hindu persecution by Muslims was clearly aimed at forging a sharp communal divide to polarize a large chunk of the Hindu vote."

Broadly, the Pilbhit constituency has over 3 lakh Muslim voters, about 1.5 lakh Sikhs and nearly 7 lakh Hindu votes. Of the Hindus, there were some 2.5 lakh Kurmi backwards, 1.5 Lodhi backwards, 2 lakh scheduled castes and about 1 lakh upper castes .

Even as Pilibhit shares borders with Uttaranchal and Nepal, it has neither been among the key conduits for Indo-Nepal smuggling, nor known for any cross-border violence of any kind.

"Only for a brief spell between the late eighties and early nineties, parts of Pilibhit figured as haven for Sikh terrorists fleeing Punjab", said an inspector general of police who then held charge of the district.

Bulk of the population is into farming and because of its rich soil, the area thrives in sugarcane cultivation, that has also given rise to as many as 8 vibrant sugar mills in the region.

V.M.Singh, who besides being the Congress nominee from Pilbhit, was also Maneka Gandhi's estranged cousin, alleged, "Even Maneka has been winning the election from here by somehow ensuring polarisation of votes on religious lines."

He claimed, "I am told that her strong connections with SP bigwig Amar Singh has helped her to achieve that objective."

Singh also said, "The selection of Riaz Ahmad as the SP nominee this time was a reflection of this underhand deal only", adding, "Who does not know that Riaz Ahmad had very old nexus with Maneka, who fielded him as Sanjay Vichar Manch (floated by her in 1983, after her husband Sanjay Gandhi's death)?"

Interestingly, Amar Singh chose to handpick Riaz against Satpal Gangwar, who had stood second in the 2004 Lok Sabha tally.

According to V.M.Singh, "The same old story is being repeated for Varun Gandhi now and I would not be surprised if all his utterances were part of a well orchestrated design to polarise Muslims against Hindus."

Sharat Pradhan in Pilbhit