September 20, 2020
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Formula For A Riot

How the most vicious, poisonous and communal speeches silenced all voices of moderation.

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Formula For A Riot
File - AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh
Formula For A Riot
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Report by a CPI (M) delegation that visited the recently riot-ridden Muzzafaranagar

A CPI(M) delegation comprising of Saidul Haque, MP, Subhashini Ali, Member Central Committee, DP Singh, member UP State Secretariat, and district party leaders visited Muzaffarnagar on Saturday, September 14. Since curfew had been lifted that day, they visited the homes of Sachin and Gaurav who had been killed on August 27 and Rajendra Varma, an IBN7 correspondent who was killed on September 7 and met those hundreds of people in camps who lost their family members, their homes, belongings and livestock in the recent Muzaffarnagar riots. They also went to the District Hospital. At the end of their visit, they came to certain conclusions and noted some demands.

Findings:

  • Sexual harassment of young school and college-going girls is perceived as a major problem across communities. The perpetrators also belong to both communities. The education of girls is being adversely impacted by this problem. Unfortunately, this problem is being exploited by the Hindutva forces who are demonising the minority community as being responsible for this crime and alleging that girls belonging to the majority community are the victims. This is not only untrue but also reveals the fact that for them it is not the exploitaion of women that is the issue but this is simply an inflammatory issue for communal polarisation.
  • While it is alleged that the incident of September 27 in which Sachin and Gaurav clashed with Shahnawaz apparently because he was harassing their young sister, which resulted in the tragic deaths of all three, was the trigger for the later violence, this is not correct. Such incidents have been occurring and are common in the area and, in fact, in the State.
  • It is extremely important to remember that on Eid, September 9, Idris was shot dead at the Idgah entrance just before the prayer started. His killers were identified as Pradeep, Ram Niwas (lawyer) and Kishore. Pradeep used to harass Idris' daughter and after one such incident, was slapped by Idris which led to the killing. The administration promptly arrested the 3 accused and there was no retaliation from the Muslims who did not celebrate Eid. The people in the camp repeatedly said that had the administration been as active on the 27th and afterwards, the ghastly events that followed could have been averted.
  • Our visit also confirmed that, while there have been casualties among both communities, it is the minority community that has suffered immeasurably more in terms of loss of lives, homes, property and livestock. Our visit to the District Hospital and conversations in the camps, confirmed the brutality of the killings. Bodies of young children that had been brutalised and burned were brought to the hospital; a woman's body, cut into pieces, was also brought.
  • It became very evident that the Government and the administrative failure are responsible for the terrible loss of life and property. It is incomprehensible that after 3 deaths in one day (27th), no decisive action was taken, instead, and DM and SSP (who had been responsible for correctly handling the situation on Eid) were transferred and replaced by new persons. There was no clarity as to how Sec. 144 was to be enforced and open provocation to be dealt with. Despite the fact that on each day after the 27th until the 7th, there were incidents of clashes, stoning, provocative speeches (from leaders of both communities) and mobilisations, nothing was done to intervene strongly and enforce Sec. 144 in the district. Even after it was discovered that a morphed video clip creating anti-minority hysteria was being circulated and the involvement of a BJP MLA, Som, was confirmed no strong steps were taken. After banning the 7th Mahapanchayat, nothing at all was done to enforce the ban.
  • Despite the fact that the RSS and Hindutva forces have been active in the area for some time and have been raising divisive issues in a planned manner, they were given every opportunity to exploit the situation after the 27th with devastating effect. What was projected as a Khap Mahapanchayat was actually a massive mobilisation of the majority community from not only all the neighbouring districts but also from Uttarakhand and Haryana. At the Mahapanchayat itself, while Khap leaders were present, the stage was utilised by leaders of the BJP (Som, Sadhvi Prachi and others) to make the most vicious, poisonous and communal speeches. All voices of moderation were immediately silenced and those who spoke up were booed. At a 'Beti Bachao, Bahu Bachao' mahapanchayat, the slogan was changed to 'Beti Bachao, Bahu Banao'. The administration and police personnel were spectators to all this, to the nature of arms being brandished and to the murder of Israr who was killed in full view right in front of the Thaana.
  • The crowds returning from the Mahapanchayat were attacked at Jauli with some casualties and news of what had transpired during the Panchayat led to a situation of confrontation in Muzaffarnagar town.
  • After the return of the participants to their villages, attacks on the minority community members who had lived with them peacefully for generations, began in many villages. The exodus to the camps followed.

Demands

  • Immediate arrests of all those charged with inciting communal violence and those who have been filmed doing so
  • Proper relief measures by the Government should be undertaken.
  • Payment of compensation for all those killed and injured to be done promptly and without any discrimination
  • Measures should be taken by the administration to restore and maintain peace and to gradually begin the process to ensure the return of those who have fled their homes and their security needs to be ensured.

Experiences Of The Delegation
The delegation went to the home of Shri Rajinder Singh and Shri Bishen Singh in Malipura mauja of Kawaal whose sons Sachin (25 years) and Gaurav (16 years) were killed on the September 27 in Kawaal. We also met the bereaved women of the family and spoke to them at length. According to them, eve teasing of girls going to schools and colleges is a very real problem. Reluctantly, they admitted that boys of both communities were involved in this but insisted that Shahnawaz was a well-known anti social and he had been harassing the young girls from their family for months. The girls had been sent away so we could not speak to them. The women were naturally traumatised by the brutal killings of their own sons but the fathers said that they did not want anyone to be killed in their name. In fact, we could see people, including women, of both communities moving on the roads, bringing in fodder etc. and we were told that there had been no incidents of killings in these villages after the 27th. Other people also gathered there and the general opinion was that if the administration had acted promptly and those accused of the brothers' murders had remained in custody, the rioting would not have taken place.

From here, we went through Jauli to the Tanwali camp. Tanwali is a Muslim-dominated town where about 500 Muslim villagers, men, women and children, from neighbouring villages of Kharad, Kinauni, Hadauli, Sisauli (Mahendra Singh Tikait's village) have taken shelter. We met the women in the camp and spoke to them at length. While all those in the camp had suffered loss of property and homes and livestock, their experiences were not uniform. In Kharad, Sageer was killed and an entire family was set on fire inside their home but, fortunately, they were rescued, obviously with injuries. In Kinauni, the women and children were sheltered on the 7th night in the home of Devinder, the Pradhan and were made to leave for the camp the next day. They said that they did not know what had happened to their homes, belongings and livestock. In the neighbouring village of Hadauli, however, the women said that at least 6 people were killed and some burnt in their homes. They fled into the fields and then came to the camp.

The organisers of the camp said that till then they had received no rations from the administration although this had been promised. They were running the camp with help from the community.

We then visited the District Hospital but those injured in riots weren't there anymore. The Medical Superintendent told us that serious cases had been referred to Meerut and the others had been discharged after their recovery. We were told that since the 27th there were 53 post mortems performed (may or may not all be riot victims) of which one was a woman and two were children of 10 years of age. Most belonged to the minority community. A newspaper report that morning quoted a Government doctor saying that some of the bodies had been so brutalised that he could not eat for 24 hours. The body of a woman was in pieces and the bodies of the children were so badly battered and burnt that it was difficult to identify the sex.

At the home of IBN7's Rajesh Verma, an extremely popular journalist with a strong social commitment, we met his widow, children and family members. He had covered the Mahapanchayat and had helped Farid and his wife. He had been shaken by Israr's murder. This was conveyed to us by his family. He had barely come home when he heard the news of rioting in the heart of Muzaffarnagar. He rushed out, tried to pacify people as he filmed the clashes and was then shot dead. Firing was taking place from both sides at the time. His widow and he were both orphans.

Finally, we visited the Shahpur camp. It is situated in a large madrassa off the main road which has a large open ground next to it. There are about 4000 people in this camp. Not only were people staying in the madrassa itself but also in the surrounding houses. There were 11 widows in this camp observing iddat.

The administration had been supplying milk and ration (not totally adequate) to the camp for some 3 days. The DM himself was here putting up a pandal, perhaps in preparation for the chief minister's visit the next day. He said that they were trying to send rations to all the camps but had not succeeded. He also said people were still leaving their villages and the number of camps was increasing every day.

People from nearby villages, some just across the road, Kakda, Kutba, Kutbi, Nirmana, had flocked there. In Kakda, they said, they were attacked on the 7th night by armed mobs. They were looted and their homes were burned. The mosque was attacked. They could contact the CRP and come to the camp. More than 2000 people from this village have left and they are in other camps as well. In Kutba village, 8 people have been reported killed - Irshad, Qayyum, Shamshad, Wahidi, Fayyaz, Tarabu and others. One woman, Gulistan, is in the hospital. The police helped them reach the camp. There is the report of one casualty from Kutbi. We met Qayums' widow, Mehro, and mother and his very young children, all in the camp.

As we left the camp we could see more people streaming in.


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