Religious tensions utilized for political gain: Riot leaves 31 dead as religious tensions increase

Posted on October 10, 2013 by


Jordan Anderson

World Religions

Critical Commentary


The article “Religious riots kill 31 in UP, political parties trade blame” by Sharat Pradhan described the violence that occurred from a religious riot that resulted in a death toll of thirty-one people and forced hundreds to flee their homes. This riot was a result of rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India and the situation is being perpetuated with the upcoming general elections in May. The violence that occurred in the district of Muzaffarnagar, New Delhi in Uttar Pradesh (UP), included not only the death toll but also the beating of children and the burning of farms and other property. The article emphasizes the violence that has played a key feature in Indian politics since the separation of Pakistan and the part that religion and caste violence plays in the political atmosphere in India.

The first paragraph grabs the reader’s attention with emphasizing the death toll and the other acts of violence in bold. The paragraph quickly summarizes the violence and religious tensions without explaining the background behind the issue, which leaves the reader wanting to read the article. The pictures at the top of the article show a barren street in the city during a mandated curfew because of continued violence. Another picture shows a young woman with her baby who were both injured during the riots sleeping in a hospital bed; the mother and child represent the innocent people that were killed, injured, or displaced because of the riot. Another picture that shows a parade of Indian army vans patrolling a deserted street makes the small city look like a war zone. The pictures that accompany the article evoke a sense of sadness in the reader and they illustrate the losses that had resulted from the riot.

The author did not specifically go into the stereotypes of beliefs that are usually attached to Muslims and Hindus. Instead the author claims that political groups exacerbate the situation by fanning the tension, which brings political gain through promising protection against “rival” religious groups. The author takes the two rival religions and looks at the political side of them. From knowing their turbulent history he claims that political leaders instigated the riot by using carefully chosen words in speeches and social media to fuel a common mistrust and hatred for a religious group that is seen as different. The article gives a slightly negative connotation to religion as it states that it is being manipulated to bring about a desired political end. Pradhan interviewed professor Sudha Pai who is an expert on Uttar Pradesh politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Pai stated the attack had been “fomented” as the communities in the past had always lived side by side. His added statement” there is no doubt about it” gives the reader the impression that what the author is claiming has to be true, as he got his information from an academic expert. This part of the article, although giving facts such as the numbers of escalating violence in the region, also promotes Pradhan’s views of the reason behind the tension and escalating riots in Muzaffarnagar; he sees religion ultimately being used as a tool by leaders in politics to promote the idea of fear and differences in order to gain votes for the upcoming election.

The information and details surrounding this riot had many constraints, predominantly the issue of news media not being allowed to get into Muzaffarnagar, which leaves all stories and news about the riot and political tensions to come from second hand sources. Details including specific people who instigated the riot and attacks and the actual reasons behind them are left unknown as the article by Pradhan is widely based off of speculation and the historical patterns of clashing religions in India. The author seems to discredit the political supporters in the area as using religion as a weapon to create a discord between groups in order to gain votes and popularity through the rising tensions.

The coverage of this riot was not extensive in this article due to limiting factors of new media in that area. Coverage of this story was also limited due to the extensive amount of violence that is found throughout the Middle East and is reported on daily so that one story out of thousands regarding religious and political tensions could get lost in the pack. What makes this article stand out is the interesting claim that religious affiliations and groups of religions are being targeted by political groups in India to force them against each other in order to gain votes in the upcoming election. Religion thus begins to have a stigma attached to it in this area related to underhanded plans for political gain.

Pradhan, Sharat. “Religious riots kill 31 in UP, political parties trade blame.” Reuters. Reuters, 06 10 2013. Web. 8 Oct 2013. <;.

Original Article of religious riots in Muzaffarnagar

Images from Muzaffarnagar:

Source: Reuters

Posted in: Hinduism, Islam