The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) fact-finding report on communal clashes in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh:
Following the reports of the communal clashes and tension in Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh, a team of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) visited the area. The team consisted of Vimal Bhai, National Convener (Uttarakhand), Sudha, Afroze Jahan (from UP) and Rishit Neogi (Delhi) and visited the area on February 2-3, 2018 to assess the situation and intervene with the peace-process wherever possible.
Kasganj, district headquarter, two hours ride from Aligarh, is home to one of India’s most prestigious universities Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). On the Republic Day, a Tiranga Bike Rally consisting of men on 60-65 bikes forecfully tried to pass through the narrow lanes of Buddoonagar, Kasganj where the colony’s residents (pre-dominantly Muslim) were holding a flag-hoisting ceremony at Shaheed Hamid Chawk. The bikers demanded the entire set up consisting of a tricolour, chairs and a small stage/microphone to be removed and make way for the rally to pass. The colony residents asked the bikers to take another diversion as it was an annual affair and the program will be soon concluded.
Heated arguments started and the bikers allegedly raised some communally charged slogans like ‘Bharat mein rehna hoga to vande mataram kehna hoga’ and allegedly tried to raise saffron flags in the area. Altercations followed and the bikers left Buddoonagar without their bikes. Elsewhere in the town, soon rumours spread through social media that a bullet killed a young Hindu boy Chandan Gupta. This subsequently raised the tension and mobilisations leading up to imposition of curfew and deployment of security forces across town, leading to complete shutdown of the town. The situation still remains tense there and there is an atmosphere of tension and fear in the communities.
A Community in Fear and Pain
The team met Naushad, a 33 year old labourer from Kasganj at the AMU Hospital general ward. Naushad carries marble slabs on his back for a living. Naushad was shot in his thigh in the riot, and a bullet passed through his thighs. Till now, no one from the police, administration or government has met Naushad or offered any help or compensation.
The team also met Irfan Khan, a brick labourer from Buddoonagar who works in Gujarat. Irfan Khan had rushed back to Kasganj as his son Imran Khan was arrested by the police as a riot accused. So far Irfan Khan had not managed to visit the police station and find out what happened to his son as the community is too afraid to venture out to the police station which is located in the predominantly Hindu areas. Their own expectation of justice from the police is thin.
Many other youngsters from Buddoonagar were picked up by the police on charges ranging from murder, rioting to disturbing peace. Their friends and relatives claim they are innocent. Such was the tale of Rashid who was arrested along with his father and brother and later released arbitrarily with charges of Sec 151. Their phones were snatched during the operation and never returned. These are only few examples. People are so much under pressure and uncertain about the future situation. The area is dominantly working class and lower middle class.
In the riot, lasting for 3 days, around 45 shops belonging to Muslims were set on fire. Many mosques were vandalized. A prominent business owner along with his family members (who owns one of the few profitable enterprises belonging to people from the Muslim community) has been arrested on serious charges of having conspired the riots.
There is an atmosphere of gloom prevailing in the community and their normal lives are disrupted.
Complicity of the Local Administration
A Peace Meeting was called by the DG – Law & Order in Nagar Palika Hall on 29 January. The meeting was concluded with an assurance that normal life and business would resume but some shopkeepers were later harassed/ arrested when they tried to go back to their shops. Whereas the predominantly Muslim areas were cordoned off with heavy security, elsewhere in the city, prominent small and medium Muslim businesses existing in main markets were allowed to burn. There was no effort by the administration to offer any real security or relief to quell the fear and paranoia of the citizens. Nor any other action has been taken by government to bring peace and win people’s confidence. Till date there has been no action taken for stopping rumours and Facebook – WhatsApp hate messages. The pronouncements of the Kasganj MP Raju Bhaiya from BJP openly calling for ‘blood for blood’ further created fear and hatred.
Reign of Terror, Prejudice and Propaganda
Conversations with many local and eminent people gave us the impression that a controversy relating to ‘right to passage’ near a Hindu temple, Chamunda Mandir was a bone of contention for quite some time as the route is also used by Muslim commuters.
Ex-Nagar Nigam Chairman of Kasganj and Chairperson of District Congress Committee, Dr. Shashilata Chauhan informed us of the illustrious ganga-jamuni tehzeeb of Kasganj which is the birthplace of both Amir Khusroe and Tulsidas.
The increased depth of smart phones and fake news propaganda has only strengthened the existing communal prejudices. Prejudices like ‘Muslims cheer for Pakistan in a India-Pakistan cricket match and burst crackers if Pakistan wins’ seem trivial but in the row that ensued in Kasganj over Tricolour and Saffron flags shows us the frivolity with which human lives are today viewed and valued. It also needs to be noted that today very few shops remain in Kasganj, since in 1992 when the last major riot happened, many shops of the Muslims were burnt then, which changed the whole fabric of the society and economy of the town since then.
Appeal to People’s Organizations and Citizens believing in Constitutional Values
In past few years the incidents of communal clashes have gained momentum and Uttar Pradesh is fast turning in to the next laboratory of Hindutva. This is only going to become worse as elections near and hence, the increased need for all secular and democratic forces to join hands together and defeat forces promoting violence, hate and prejudice. We welcome all efforts against fascism, militarisation and religious fanaticism.
We urge secular organisations to actively take part in the peace-building processes everywhere around them and stand up to challenges of fundamentalism.
We also urge spiritual leaders of all communities to interact with each other and send a positive message to their respective communities.
We urge the youth to engage with burning issues of unemployment and focus on creating an equitable and sustainable model of development and progress rather than fanning the fire of nationalism and fake rumours.
We also urge everyone to join in our efforts and pray for the well being of the victims of this violence and offer our condolence to the family of Chandan Gupta. We can’t and must not lose more lives to this madness.
We demand the following from the State:
- State must institute a judicial commission to ensure fair inquiry into the 26 January incident leading to murder of Chandan Gupta and causing injuries to several others, arson and loot, burning of shops, damage to property and attack on Mosques etc.
- Police should immediately register FIRs against perpetrators of violence without showing any prejudice to any community.
- Police should follow due legal processes and release all innocent who has been arrested without fair recourse to judicial processes. Riots or mob violence should not be an excuse to unleash state terror upon citizens by brazen arrests and coercion or torture.
- State must ensure safety and security of pre-dominantly Muslim areas.
- Chairman of Municipal Council should take active steps to engage with the community and address their grievances and behave in a way that is worthy of holding a prestigious public office.
- The administration should immediately take cognizance of the heinous hate speech made by political leaders that catalysed the violence and take action against them.
- The Government of Uttar Pradesh must pay compensations to all victims and whose property has been destroyed without any delay.
The report has been endorsed, among others, by Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan; Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS); Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; P.Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh VyavasayaVruthidarula Union and National Centre For Labour; Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party; Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Anand Mazgaonkar and Krishnakant, ParyavaranSuraksh Samiti; Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI; Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti; Dr.Sunilam and Adv Aradhna Bhargava,Kisan Sangharsh Samiti