Lucknow: Ending its silence on the decision to withdraw cases against BJP leaders accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots, the Uttar Pradesh government termed the accused as victims of “political vendetta”.
Relying to a question by News18 on the withdrawal of cases, state law minister Brajesh Pathak said, “There is a difference between withdrawing cases against politicians and those filed because of political reasons. We are in the process of examining all such cases.”
The minister’s comment comes days after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's meeting with leaders accused of involvement in the Muzaffarnagar riots, including former cabinet minister and MP Sanjeev Baliyan, MLA Sangeet Som and MP Bhartendu Singh among others.
These leaders in their meeting had reportedly requested the Chief Minister to expedite the process of withdrawal of the riot cases. Even before that meeting, the state’s law department had sent a letter to the District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar in January, seeking opinion on around 10 riot-related cases registered in 2013 against the top BJP leaders.
The riots in 2013 had left 63 dead and rendered around 50,000 homeless. Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana were even booked under the NSA. While Som is still an MLA, Rana is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet. Apart from the duo, others against whom FIR was registered include BJP MP Sanjeev Baliyan, Bhartendu Singh, MLA Umesh Malik and Sadhvi Prachi.
Government sources confirmed that a report on the status of these cases had already been sent by the district administration. Most of these leaders were booked under serious sections of the IPC, including 128, 153a and 353. The cases are already in the trial stage and pending in the concerned courts.
Though ultimately it will be the court's decision whether to accept the government's request to drop the case or continue trial, the state government is expected to soon make a petition in the trial court, seeking dropping of charges.
The Opposition has voiced strong criticism of the move. Congress spokesperson Amarnath Agarwal said, “It’s a dangerous trend. By trying to take off the cases, the government is encouraging hate mongers, paving way for more riots.”
Samajwadi Party national spokesperson Udaveer Singh said, “There is a strong case against the accused. Our government at that point in time didn't act out of any political vendetta.”
CPM Politburo member Subhashni Ali said, “How can the government ignore all video evidence? Many of them (BJP leaders) were shown on national media at that point in time. We do hope the concerned courts will look into these aspects while deciding on the government's request.”